The Surrey Board of Education has mandated masks for all grades, with the new rule coming into effect next week.
The board and district staff met with a medical health officer from Fraser Health Wednesday (Sept. 29) to discuss COVID-19 protocols and concerns.
Following the meeting, the district announced it would be extending the mask mandate for students in kindergarten to Grade 3.
The new requirement will begin Monday, Oct. 4.
This follows the Vancouver School Board voting in favour to make masks mandatory for students in kindergarten to Grade 3 earlier this week.
Two weeks before the school year on Aug. 24, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced masks for staff and students in grades 4 to 12 while masks were only encouraged for kindergarten to Grade 3.
However, in a change from the 2020-21 school year, school districts would be able to implement further regional and local measures.
In a post on the district’s website on Wednesday (Sept. 29), it says the board is meeting with the health authority’s medical health officer for schools to discuss the increase in COVID-19 cases in young children and to determine how the board and Fraser Health can “work together to ensure all measures and layers of protection are in place in our schools and that school communities are fully informed and protected.”
On Tuesday (Sept. 28), Henry said said the rate of cases per 100,000 people is “going up quite dramatically, particularly in those younger school-aged children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.”
Testing, Henry said, has also seen a “dramatic increase.” But she noted that was “something we expected” as school started up again.
“We’ve gone up from about 100 children a day being tested across the age groups to over 500 children a day being tested for COVID-19.”
Meantime, the Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen said the district needs to “ensure that all layers of protection available are being used and that our community is adequately informed.”
She said the district has schools with multiple cases and multiple classes in isolation.
“We will share our concerns about notifying communities of cases and to hear how public health can support boards of education to address concerns about COVID-19 in our school communities.”
According to the district, the meeting will include discussions around mandating all layers of protection, such as why masks are not yet mandated for kindergarten to Grade 3; public notification of cases, clusters and outbreaks; increasing vaccination rates through vaccine clinics in schools; and making the school communities aware of how they can access testing, including the rinse/gargle test kits that are available in Surrey schools.