The B.C. government announced many new COVID-19 safety measures for the upcoming school year, but mandatory vaccines for teachers and staff were not among them.
All staff will be required to wear masks and students in Grade 4 or higher masks will also be mandatory.
Students will also be able to return to extracurricular activities like sports, music and theatre, as long as they follow Provincial Health Orders.
“We know how excited students and families are about being back in school with extracurricular and sports programs and how important it is for children to be connected to their teachers and friends on a full-time basis,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education.
“We also know we can do this safely, even as the pandemic continues to present challenges. B.C. was one of the few jurisdictions in Canada to keep schools open and safe last year thanks to the monumental efforts of everyone in the education system. The precautions we are announcing today allow students to continue learning in school with safeguards in place, so they have every opportunity to achieve their best.”
Provincial officials are urging staff and students to keep getting vaccinated to help make sure schools will not need to close.
“As part of your back-to-school preparations, we encourage youth to walk in now to get vaccinated at one of B.C.’s vaccination clinics, or go to a pop-up or mobile or community vaccine event around the province,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s immunization effort.
“As students, parents and families prepare and plan for back to school, they can take advantage of the many locations and opportunities to receive a first or second dose. It’s more convenient than ever to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Students will continue to be required to complete daily health checks and stay home when feeling sick.
The mask mandate will also be in effect for all post-secondary staff and students and proof of vaccinations will be required for students living in on-campus housing.
Provincial officials said the mask order will apply in all indoor public areas on campus including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs.
Proof of vaccinations will also be required for all non-essential activities including, gyms, restaurants and outdoor events.
I know how challenging the past 18 months has been, and I am grateful for the work Dr. Henry and her team are doing to help guide post-secondary institutions as they make their plans for a safe return to in-person learning,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
“The pandemic has been difficult on students, faculty and staff at B.C.’s colleges, institutes and universities, and with these added measures we can continue to move forward and come back together safely.”
These guidelines will come into effect on September 7th, 2021.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces throughout B.C..
the new order is in effect for anyone 12 and older and will require them to wear a mask in all indoor spaces.
The settings include:
– malls, shopping centres, coffee shops and retail and grocery stores;
– liquor and drug stores;
– airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres;
– restaurants, pubs and bars (unless seated);
– on public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle;
– areas of office buildings where services to the public are provided;
– common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity;
– common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations; and
– inside schools for all K-12 staff, visitors and students in grades 4-12.
“As transmission of COVID-19 increases in B.C., primarily among unvaccinated people and in part due to the Delta variant, it’s important to take this extra temporary step to make indoor public spaces safer for everyone,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.
“We need to continue doing the things that protect us, including wearing masks in indoor, public areas, practising hand hygiene regularly, staying away if we are sick and keeping a respectful distance from people. And most important of all, every person should get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.”
Masks can be temporarily removed while indoor to identify the individual wearing the mask, to eat food or beverage, or while participating in a sport or fitness activity.