No masks for kids as Coquitlam district schools reopen June 1 in Phase 2 plan

Teachers and students won't be prevented from wearing masks but don't need them, superintendent says

Masks aren’t recommended in the public school system so few are expected to wear them when classroom instruction resumes June 1.

At least that’s the direction School District 43 is taking, although it won’t be prohibiting the wearing of facial coverings when students and teachers are back in schools next week.

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“We are a regulated setting, we can control physical distancing,” superintendent Patricia Gartland said.

Instead, schools will implement “traffic control” measures in and around schools, school density of between 20% and 50% and implement hand washing and physical distancing, superintendent Gartland explained.

For example, there will be more outdoor activities when students return and staggered lunches and breaks, she said, while students will be organized in small cohorts, including family groupings and schools will be deep cleaned Wednesday’s and on weekends, with touch points disinfected twice a day during the school week.

Unlike transit, where physical distancing may be difficult to maintain, Gartland insisted that SD43 is a regulated facility and thus facial coverings aren’t necessary.

Admitting that PPE (personal protective equipment) is a “very hot topic,” Gartland said it is not recommended and not necessary unlike in other unregulated public settings where people are advised to wear masks to “possibly protect others and the individual.”

Hierarchy of controls
PPE is at the bottom of the hierarchy of controls. - BC Government

“Hand washing is the strategy and physical distancing is the strategy within schools,” Gartland said.

Indeed, masks or other PPE are the lowest priority in the province’s hierarchy of controls to stop the spread of PPE.

While some may wonder whether schools will become a petrie dish for the spread of COVID-19 and worry about children, teachers or other staff contracting the coronavirus, Dr. Bonnie Henry has maintained that children are at low risk for spreading or getting the disease.

“It’s clear around the world that [children] are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than adults,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at a recent press conference.

Meanwhile, SD43 couldn’t hand out PPE if it wanted to as it has given its extra supply to the province’s Emergency Management BC for distribution to essential service workers, according to recent documents.

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