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All students, staff of Calgary public school board required to wear masks at start of school year

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CALGARY -

The Calgary Board of Education will mandate indoor face mask use for all students and staff when the traditional school year begins on Sept. 1.

The move was announced in a letter sent by Christopher Usih, CBE chief superintendent of schools, to parents and guardians Wednesday afternoon.

According to Usih's letter, students from kindergarten through Grade 12 will be required to wear face coverings while inside school buildings.

“We see this as a prudent approach to start up the school year to make sure that students again are in school in person," said Usih. "We want our students to return. I want to do everything possible to ensure that their learning is not disrupted as a result of illness within our schools,”

The decision was made after taking into account increasing COVID-19 case numbers, lower vaccination rates for those ages 12 to 19 and considering that those under 12 are not eligible to receive a vaccine.

“At this time given that the vaccination rates for those 12 to 19 are just a little over 50 per cent …It’s really important that we take those extra precautions," Usih said.

“This provides a greater level of confidence that we taking the extra step to ensure greater safety for all our students and staff, recognizing that health and safety is top priority,” Usih added.

Plans are currently in place to extend the mask guidance of the 2020-2021 school year, including all outlined exceptions, into the start of 2021-2022 but the guidance document will be updated as necessary later this month.

Usih said the mandated use of masks will be reviewed prior to the end of September. Any potential changes to the CBE rules will be made with consideration for active COVID-19 case counts in Calgary and Alberta as well as the direction of Alberta's chief medical officer of health and Alberta Education.

HEALTH MEASURES

CBE students in the modified calendar returned to class earlier this week with the mask requirement in place.

Other health measures will include:

-Students and staff will be expected to use a daily checklist to identify if they have COVID-19 symptoms and should stay home;

-Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high traffic/touch areas;

-Enhanced ventilation in school;

-Classroom cohorts in kindergarten to Grade 6; and

-No unscheduled visitors or volunteers will be permitted in school at the start of the school year.

The CBE said at the direction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health it will no longer inform close contacts of positive cases, but additional health measures may be implemented if outbreaks occur.

The CBE will be lifting some measures including allowing band and sports activities and some field trips.

The CBE continues to encourage all of its eligible employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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