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Alberta school boards will not be able to mandate masking: education minister

student, school, mask, gloves, COVID-19

Alberta school boards will not be able to bring in their own mask mandates after the province’s requirement that students wear masks inside schools ends Monday.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange made the statement related to masking shortly after Tuesday’s announcement on COVID-19 restrictions.

 “School authorities cannot deny their students access to in person education due to their personal decision to wear or not wear a mask in schools,” Lagrange said in a statement on social media. “Individual family choices need to be respected and students should not be stigmatized for their choice related masking going forward, similarly to their personal vaccination status.”

TOO MUCH TOO SOON

Advocacy group Support Our Students expressed shock over the decision to end masking in schools without consultation with school boards.

“The removal of the protection of masking is just too much too soon,” said Wing Li with SOS.

“Without the mandate it really shifts the attitude and the culture of what’s accepted.”

The group is worried that not only will transmission increase, students who choose to wear a mask may face some stigma.

“Following science should not be punished,” Li said. “They’re just trying to stay safe, and that should be prioritized over the preferences of other people.”

CHAOTIC AND CONFUSING

SOS also wants the province to be more transparent about the data it’s basing the decision off of.

“It’s hard to believe that they’re doing this based on a thorough analysis, a rigorous analysis of any numbers, because they haven’t even posted any of that,” Li said.

There is also confusion about the decision to prevent school boards from bringing in their own mandates, when so much decision-making about COVID protocols has been left up to the boards up to this point.

“It’s chaotic and it’s confusing,” Li said.

“It really comes down to us … feeling that this prohibition is political. [LaGrange] is bringing down her hammer, so to speak, at a time when we need to have schoolboards enforce safety.”

SOS would have liked to have seen more progress made on improving ventilation in schools before removing the layer of protection provided by masking.

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