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Burnaby school board mandates masks for K-3 students

Unanimous decision made after 'urgent' meeting with Fraser Health Thursday
school mask
A local primary student is dropped off for a day of school.

The Burnaby school board has joined Vancouver and Surrey in mandating masks for students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

After unanimously passing a motion Tuesday reiterating only “strong encouragement that all students – including those in K-3 – wear masks in schools,” the board announced two days later it had decided to go a step further and institute mandatory masking for all students.

The board made the decision unanimously at a special board meeting Thursday morning after meeting with Fraser Health regional medical health officer Ariella Zbar on an “urgent basis” Wednesday night, according to a school district news release.

“Her assurance that masks are an effective layer of protection for all students when used in concert with other health and safety measures informed the board’s decision to promptly implement this new mask requirement for K-3 students,” stated the release.

Starting Monday, all Burnaby students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear masks while indoors at school “unless medically, developmentally, behaviourally or otherwise legitimately precluded from doing so.”

Moving forward, the release said “the board will continue to work with the medical health officer to ensure that health and safety measures in Burnaby schools are based on public health guidance.”

The Vancouver and Surrey school boards both announced decisions this week to go beyond provincial guidelines and include primary students in their mask mandates.

The Burnaby Teachers’ Association had urged the Burnaby board to do the same.

“Ideally, we’d like it to be provincial, but, short of that, it’s encouraging to see districts go beyond,” president Daniel Tétrault told the NOW.

Local parents had also pressed for the mask mandate to be expanded.

District parent advisory council chair Ashley Sandquist was one of five DPAC chairs to sign a letter sent to provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside Monday calling for “urgent measures” in light of rising COVID cases among children.

Expanding the mask mandate to include younger kids was at the top of their list.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor