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Alberta mask changes under fire as parents, teachers, school boards criticize 'rash' decision

New school masking rules are garnering a negative reaction from many in Alberta as students get set for another classroom change. 

The province announced Tuesday that face coverings will no longer be mandatory for children in schools starting next week.

That has promoted public statements from schools boards, student advocacy groups and the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA): the latter saying it may pursue legal action through individual members. 

"The association will look at all the avenues that we have available to us in order to make sure that our teachers are working in a healthy and safe atmosphere and environment,” president Jason Schilling said. 

The ATA is currently talking to its lawyers about teachers who may have occupational health and safety concerns.

Previously, Schilling said, individual schools boards could opt out of the decision. 


But Alberta's education minister made it clear Tuesday that won't be an option this time around. 

A public letter written by Adriana LaGrange informed boards they no longer have the power to override the directive and order students to wear masks in school or on school buses.

"School authorities cannot deny their students access to in person education due to their personal decision to wear or not to wear a mask," the letter reads. 


The premier argued Tuesday that kids have faced an unfair burden during the pandemic and that it's time to help them move on.

And while many Albertans have vocally agreed -- some even protesting outside of schools this week -- the majority of parents CTV News talked to Wednesday say the move is premature. 

Organization Support Our Students agrees. 

"Masking was one of the only protections in school, and to remove it so abruptly and quickly comes across as quite rash," Medeana Moussa said. "It begs the question as to whether there's really any thoughtfulness or strategy or evidence behind their decision making."

The ATA and multiple school boards say they're also concerned with the lack of any warning or consultation. 

"If we had had some consultation with government, we would have an indication as to why they're making these plans to remove things so hastily," Schilling said. 

Trisha Estabrooks, the chair of Edmonton Public Schools, said the district plans to tell the parents of its 105,000-plus students that masks are still encouraged because she's concerned there will be more spread of the virus.

But while others also aren't happy with it, the major urban school boards all say they'll comply with the new rule. 

"We are bound to follow the Education Act and directions given by our minister, so we will be in alignment come Monday," Calgary Catholic School District's Bryan Szumlas told CTV News. "But it'll be really interesting on Monday to see how many children and parents are wearing masks and how many children aren't wearing masks."

Jason Kenney tweeted Tuesday that "almost all Alberta teachers are triple vaccinated," and that he wants the province to "treat kids like kids, not 'unsafe' vectors of transmission."

Student walkouts are already being planned for Monday in Calgary and Edmonton in response to this changes. 

  • With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

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