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A grassroots organization is requesting the BC government keep its mandatory mask mandate for K-12 schools in place, instead of repealing it.

On March 10th, BC health officials announced that face masks would no longer be required for staff and students at K-12 schools after spring break.

At the time, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix cited high vaccination levels against COVID-19 for the lifting of mandates.

But Safe Schools Coalition BC is opposed and calling for action.

“Nova Scotia has now extended their school mask mandate; BC can too,” the coalition wrote in an open letter to BC education stakeholders.

On Monday, the advocacy group, made up of teachers and parents striving for improved COVID-19 safety protocols, said scrapping the mandatory mask mandate for the remainder of the school year would “put children and families at risk.”

It’s also “breaking a basic tenet of public schools—that ALL children have the right to access an education,” the group wrote.

“Public schools are NOT a place where families and children can ‘manage their own risk’. It is not the same as choosing to dine indoors at a restaurant or go to a movie theatre with unmasked people. Children must attend school.”

Without masks in schools, the group says “an impossible situation for higher risk families” will likely emerge, especially for those immunocompromised or who live in multi-generational homes.

The letter also points to a March 10th study by the National Institutes of Health—claiming schools with mandatory masking during the Delta surge had around 72% fewer cases of in-school transmission when compared to schools with optional masking policies.

“With more transmissible variants circulating, universal masking will also help keep schools open by ensuring adequate staffing levels,” Safe Schools Coalition BC added.

“If rules can be set for peanut-free schools so that those with severe peanut allergies can avoid exposure, then the same needs to be done for students who themselves or whose families face higher risk from catching this virus.”

Latest data from the BC Centre for Disease Control shows 56% of children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 35% have received their second dose.

Safe School Coalition BC’s full letter can be found here.

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