School divisions in Prince Albert adapt to new masking measures

·3 min read

Among a series of new measures instituted by the province to attempt to quell the spread of COVID-19 was an expanded mask mandate for schools.

The announcement, made Wednesday, non-medical masking will be extended to all students, employees and visitors in all schools and daycares in the province.

Children aged three years old to 12 years old now should wear a mask if they are able to.

As has been the practice before children ages up to two-years old are exempt from wearing masks.

Both the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division have adapted to the new measures. The Catholic Division had already put out a notice to schools that mandatory masks would be required for Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 3 students in the division, previously the only group excluded.

“I realize that came out in the public health order this afternoon but we had initiated that out today to our schools. We had decided that we would do so regardless of what the province is doing,” Trumier said.

They used prior experiences in the pandemic as part of the decision.

“We know that there was good support for it earlier when children over two-years of age had to wear them in public places. At that point we deliberated and said we would do the same,” she explained.

Trumier explained that they have tried to stay ahead of the curve on the evolving public health orders in the province.

In Saskatchewan Rivers, similar changes were instituted, according to director of education Robert Bratvold. Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 students and staff will wear masks throughout the day. Bratvold explained that the division would be following the measures including exemptions for medical or other reasons.

This makes a change from the previous Sask. Rivers measures where Pre-Kindergarten staff and Grade 4 to 12 students are already wearing masks.

“The new measures will pose some challenges for some, but in SRPSD many early years students have been voluntarily wearing masks and this suggests we can overcome the challenges that young students may experience in adjusting to the wearing of masks,” Bratvold said.

Some schools had already been encouraging increased mask use in younger grades.

Bratvold credits staff in the division for doing excellent work thus far and explained that the staff will rely on support from families to adjust to the new measures.

“Safety protocols in schools do support our communities by reducing the risk of transmission in schools but schools also depend on the people in our communities to be diligent in taking precautions to prevent COVID transmission,” he said.

Both divisions emphasized that despite the challenges it is important that everyone continues to be diligent in performing the daily health screening and self-monitoring, stay home if not feeling well, call the HealthLine at 811 if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, practice proper hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing as much as possible, wear a mask when appropriate.

Both divisions also emphasized that they each want people to do whatever they can to keep each other safe.

So far, neither division has seen a case of COVID-19 transmitted through the school system.

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald