CALGARY -- Some Albertans are concerned the province won’t be able to secure and distribute the free masks it’s promised students and teachers.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Adriana Lagrange announced all staff and students in the province will receive two free reusable masks in September.

That news comes as the government confirms face coverings will be mandatory for most students when schools reopen.

But some experts believe procuring those masks late in the summer will be difficult.

As of now, the province cannot confirm a request for vendors has even been issued.

That’s a process that can sometimes take months.

“It looks like we are running against time,” Mount Royal Department of Supply Management Associate Professor Rajbir Bhatti said. “Procurement in itself is a long, complicated, expensive process. It’s not like Walmart where we can buy things and go back home.”

In total, the province has promised more than 1.6 million reusable masks will be provided to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff.

“1.6 million masks looks like a tremendous task now that they have given themselves only three weeks,” Bhatti said. “Unless they have been working at it behind the scenes and we don’t know.”

But a spokesperson for Lagrange says he’s confident the masks will make it on time.

”The PPE we are providing to schools will be procured from various vendors through the Provincial Operations Centre,” Colin Aitchinson said. “We are confident the PPE will be distributed prior to the beginning of the school year.”

The plan

The plan is to have the masks given to school districts so they can give them out to their students and staff.

But who will make those masks is still unclear.

One local manufacturer tells CTV News it offered to help. 

Andrew Dallman, who is one of the Medium Rare Chef Apparel owners, said he reached out to the province.

Andrew Dallman

“We thought we’d apply and try to get in there as a local business to try to help out as much as we can,” Dallman said. “We reached out a couple times and didn’t get any response back. Which was just unfortunate.”

Medium Rare is currently testing out newly-sized children’s masks.

“I understand the volume is huge and they have to get the masks to keep people safe,” Dallman said, “but if we could do a smaller portion and help out, we’d love to.”
Concerns surround Alberta mask procuement as schools prepare to reopen