Catholic Division board votes to pause mask mandate March 1

Herald file photo.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division will now be pausing mask directives in schools after receiving a letter from Education Minister Dustin Duncan directing them to remove mask mandates at the end of February.

Education Director Lorel Trumier said they will comply with the directive, and are in the process of notifying parents.

At this point the board has agreed that we will pause our use of masks in schools,” Trumier said.

It has not been common to receive directives. We are still in that process of trying to understand it and what the ramifications are to it.”

Trumier said they choose to pause the mandate rather than remove it in case a new variant arrives. She added that other health practices will remain in place, even when teachers and students can remove their masks.

We still have to ensure that we have done everything we can to support our students and staff in a healthy and safe working environment,” she explained. “There will still be some pieces that we will need to continue. The basic ones are physically distancing when possible, where practical, (and) continuing our enhanced cleaning procedures.”

Trumier added that they’ve used best measures to reduce COVID spread throughout the pandemic. She said identifying which solutions work best has always been part of the plan.

We are always trying to weigh what’s happening in the world around us and what is in the best interest of our students and staff when it comes to a safe and healthy working environment,” Trumier said.

Even though the mask mandate will be paused, students and staff will still have the option to wear a mask if they choose. Masks will still be required in specific situations to help vulnerable staff and students.

There will be occasions where a staff member may be required to wear a mask or times where a mask will be required for a student perhaps who is immunocompromised,” she explained. “We will try to support our students and staff. Through this process we will make sure that there are masks that are still available.”

She said that they will continue to educate students about best use and proper timing for wearing a mask.

When you are outside and playing outside, at this point it’s obviously something they don’t have to wear,” she said. “If they are in close proximity and feel uncomfortable than they can certainly put on a mask for a period and then take it off at other times.”

Trumier said the division has been COVID-19 prepared since the pandemic began and would continue that course for the immediate future. The board plans to keep taking guidance from medical health and public health officers, but with more communication about what issues are mandatory and which are optional.

What we hope and encourage is that people will respect each other in this process,” she said. “There are courtesies that will be provided when you are trying to protect yourself and others around you.”

The division did discontinue proof of vaccination or negative test policies on Monday and communicated that to staff. However, staff were still encouraged to rapid test and self-monitor.

Self-management is going to be very important in the days ahead,” Trumier said. “Let’s hope that we are moving through with a measured approach.”