All Langley students from Grade 4 and up are expected to be wearing masks in classes as of this week, a big change after months in which only staff and high school students were required to mask up.
The change was part of a set of new “circuit breaker” regulations announced Monday by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix.
Rod Ross, chair of the Langley School Board, said as far as he knew, the masking was to be in place as early as Tuesday. Ultimately, an order from the provincial health authorities requires no action from the board and is to be implemented by district staff, he said.
Langley will essentially be in the same state as Surrey, which had a mask mandate imposed on students earlier, although the district warned that the change might not be immediate.
“The Ministry has informed the district that health and safety guidelines for K-12 schools will be updated,” according to a school district statement sent to parents. “At this point, we are waiting for the details of the new mask wearing guidelines to share with students, staff, and families. We expect the mask wearing order indoors in schools to be expanded to additional grades and also to include some exceptions.”
“As with any new change, we recognize it will take time for students, school administrators and staff, as well as families to adapt to these amendments,” the statement said.
The lack of a mask mandate in schools had been controversial.
“For some time now, people have been requesting this,” Ross noted.
The only issue Langley teachers had with the announcement of the broader mask mandate was that it didn’t come sooner, said Tanya Kerr, president of the Langley Teachers Association (LTA).
“It’s unfortunate it didn’t happen yesterday [Sunday] or even Friday,” Kerr said.
Teachers and students could have returned with the mask mandate in place on the first day after spring break if the announcement had been earlier.
But Kerr said she and other LTA members listening to Monday “clapped and cheered” when the widened mask mandate was announced.
Kerr said she hoped that families that had gone on vacation over spring break were taking the appropriate steps on their return. Non-essential travel is being strongly discouraged right now, and anyone travelling internationally by air has to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.
Ross said there are issues with any mask mandate, including some people who oppose wearing masks.
“I’m really concerned about the special needs kids,” he said, adding that younger students can also be a challenge when it comes to mask wearing.
Ross said overall he was surprised about the extent of the new regulations across the province, but that the district would get through it.
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