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Teachers, parents want tougher mask mandate from Burnaby school board

Local teachers union urging trustees to follow Vancouver school board's lead and expand mandatory masking to kids in kindergarten to Grade 3
school mask
A local primary student is dropped off for a day of school.

Burnaby teachers are hoping the local school board follows Vancouver’s lead and extends its mask mandate to include students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

The Vancouver school board passed a motion last night (Monday) to make masks mandatory for primary students, becoming the first district in B.C. to go beyond the province’s guidelines.

The Burnaby Teachers’ Association is urging the Burnaby board to follow suit.

“Ideally, we’d like it to be provincial, but, short of that, it’s encouraging to see districts go beyond,” president Daniel Tétrault told the NOW. “We’re advocating for Burnaby to go beyond as well.”

Tétrault said union members expressed frustration at a general meeting two weeks ago that the provincial mask mandate did not include kids in kindergarten to Grade 3.

He said the union has presented those concerns to the board.

“We know that they take the safety of staff and students seriously, and so that’s why we’re asking and hoping that they extend it. And Vancouver’s shown that they can do that.”

Local parents are also pressing for the mask mandate to be expanded.

District parent advisory council chair Ashley Sandquist was one of five DPAC chairs to sign a letter sent to provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside Monday calling for “urgent measures” in light of  rising COVID cases among children.

Expanding the mask mandate to include younger kids was at the top of their list.

“We believe that younger students deserve the same protections from COVID as older students as masks are an effective safety measure to stop students from breathing in the virus, which we now know is airborne,” states the letter. 

Burnaby school board chair Jen Mezei told the NOW masks and their usage have been an ongoing topic of discussion by the board throughout the pandemic.

"It continues to be a topic of ongoing discussions. Trustees and I will be talking about this further,” she said in an emailed statement.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor