A Central Okanagan student is asking School District 23 to make masks mandatory for staff and students.
School will be back in September, but questions remain as to how schools will follow COVID-19 public health regulations.
Mt. Boucherie Secondary School student Sorsha Perry pointed out in her petition that the region is already facing a number of COVID-19 cases, and not making masks mandatory will put children at risk.
“If masks do not become mandatory in schools, children will get sick and our cases will only continue to rise,” she wrote.
“This petition is asking specifically SD 23 to make masks mandatory in our district to reduce our cases and protect the students and staff.”
Perry said she wanted to put together the signature because she wanted to protect herself, her friends and her family and others who have to be in a school setting starting this fall.
The petition now has 293 signatures. Perry said she hopes more people support the petition so that schools, especially in-person learning, don’t have to shut down again.
“(Without masks) our cases could rise and schools could shut down again, leading to more online lessons which is an incredibly difficult situation for students to learn in and very hard for teachers to teach in,” she said.
Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter said there is still a lot of planning to be done before students head back to school. The district will be submitting a school opening plan by Aug. 21, which the Ministry of Education will sign off on by Aug. 26. After that, parents will receive correspondence on what the plan is for their children and their schools.
But unlike in June, online home learning won’t be available.
“We have home school and distance learning programs in place normally that parents can opt=out for, but teachers will have classes to teach so they won’t be able to offer (virtual) instruction to students at home like was done in June. We don’t have the staff to do that,” Baxter said.
SD 23 executive director Kevin Kaardal said the district the safety of staff and students is their top priority.
“That’s why we strictly adhere to the direction from the Provincial Health Officer as we carefully plan to bring students back to classrooms safely,” Kaardal wrote in a statement.
“Appropriate mask use for staff and students are certainly a component of those plans, alongside many other safety measures.”