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New Westminster school board set to reconsider mask mandate

Staff vaccination, take-home testing and school notifications are also up for discussion at a special meeting set for Friday, Oct. 1 at noon
Masked student in classroom
New Westminster school trustees will reconsider the issue of extending the mask mandate to kindergarten to Grade 3 students in the district. A special board meeting is being held Friday, Oct. 1 at noon.

So, about that those masks in classrooms …

The New Westminster school board is holding a special board meeting tomorrow (Friday) to revisit the issue of an extended mask mandate for kindergarten to Grade 3 and to discuss a number of other COVID-19-related safety protocols.

The mask mandate issue came to the table at the Tuesday night (Sept. 28) board meeting. Trustees voted at the time not to extend the mask mandate, but to write a letter to provincial officials suggesting a review of the issue.

At the meeting, trustees expressed concern that going above and beyond the provincial mandate would undermine the provincial health officer.

The decision met with a swift – and strong – reaction from parents in the district, who were critical of the board’s decision not to go beyond the provincial minimum standard.

Wednesday evening on Twitter, school board chair Gurveen Dhaliwal noted that people were referencing Section 13 of the provincial health order regarding face masks: “Nothing in this order prevents an operator, school or post-secondary institution from having additional requirements in relation to face coverings.”

“This order was updated at some point yesterday and was not communicated to school boards, if we had known, we would have had a very different conversation last night,” Dhaliwal tweeted at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

A copy of the updated provincial health order, dated Sept. 28, is included in the agenda package for the Friday board meeting.

The updated order follows a vote by the Vancouver school board on Monday night to extend the mask mandate in its schools to include kindergarten to Grade 3 students.

The Surrey school district followed suit yesterday.

STAFF VACCINATION, TAKE-HOME TESTING ON AGENDA

The New Westminster school board will now meet on Friday, Oct. 1 at noon to look at the issue again.

The agenda contains the recommendation that the board extend the current mask mandate to include kindergarten to Grade 3 students, in line with the updated provincial health order.

Also on the agenda is a recommendation that the board seek a legal opinion regarding mandatory staff vaccinations, with a report to come back at the Oct. 12 operations committee meeting.

It also has three other matters up for discussion: school-based vaccinations, COVID-19 mouth/gargle rinse test kits and COVID-19 school notifications.

The meeting will be held virtually, via Webex, and is open to the public.

The Record will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca.