One Manitoba school division says they will mandate masks in school at least temporarily when the school year starts up in September, while another division says they are planning to leave that decision in the hands of parents and students for now.
In a letter sent out by the Lord Selkirk School Division (LSSD) the Selkirk-based division informed parents and guardians what their plans are regarding mask mandates when the school year starts up.
“Recognizing the potential for a fourth wave and considering the prevalence of variants of concerns like Delta, all staff and students in LSSD will be required to wear a mask for the month of September when inside, when singing (inside or outside) and while travelling on school buses,” LSSD said in a letter sent out on August. 18.
LSSD says once September is over they will make a decision on what their plans are for mask mandates.
“We will revisit this decision at the end of September, and be sure to communicate any potential changes at that time,” the division said in their letter.
LSSD said their decision to at least temporarily mandate masks is important for the safety of students and staff, and they believe it is also the best way to avoid students once again being sent home and forced to learn through remote learning.
“Our goal has always been to keep our schools safely open for in-class learning, as we know this is how students learn best,” LSSD said. “Attending school every day provides our students with structure, routine and opportunities to interact in meaningful ways with their teachers and peers.”
But while LSSD says they will start their school year with a mask mandate, the Steinbach-based Hanover School Division (HSD) said they plan to leave that decision up to parents, guardians and students.
In a statement on the HSD website, the division’s superintendent Shelley Amos said they plan to start the school year off at a Caution (Yellow) level of the Pandemic Response System, and as part of their reopening plans, masks will be suggested but not mandated when school starts in the division.
“At present, Public Health has determined that masks are recommended for all students, staff and visitors,” Amos said in the statement.
“Masks and personal protective equipment will be made available to schools. We encourage students and staff to follow the Public Health recommendation, as it may be helpful in preventing HSD from being moved into the Restricted (Orange) level or remote learning should cases rise in our schools and/or community.”
The Seine River School Division (SRSD) is comprised of schools in several southeastern Manitoba communities including Lorette, St. Adolphe, and Ste. Anne, said that as of August 18 they were still in the process of deciding if masks would be mandatory when the school year begins.
“We are currently considering and not yet decided our expectations regarding masks usage, and understand that many things can change before the start of the school year,” SRSD said in a statement on their website. “We will be issuing our re-opening plan later in August, and we want to remind everyone that any plans can change suddenly and quickly given the pandemic’s impact in the local context.”
The Winnipeg Sun reached out to officials with the Lord Selkirk School Division, the Hanover School Division, and the Seine River School Division for comment, but did not hear back before Monday’s press deadline.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun