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Group of students at Bowden, Alta. school who refuse to mask barred from entry by staff


Staff at a central Alberta school are concerned that online misinformation may be making a situation where a small group of students decided to ignore the province’s mask rules much worse.

On Thursday, about a dozen students who attend Bowden Grandview School were stopped in the foyer of the building after they attempted to proceed to class without putting on a face covering or mask, as required by current provincial guidelines.

Once staff realized the students were doing so, they were stopped and their parents were called.

Kurt Sacher, superintendent of schools with the Chinook's Edge School Division, says that's exactly the procedure used to deal with these "unique" situations.

"Our staff was doing what they were expected to do, which is to support the mask mandate in schools and we have some students who have chosen with the support of their parents to show up and not put the masks on," he told CTV News in an interview Thursday.

"They've not been allowed in the school, so we've asked the parents to come and pick them up and take them home until we have a solution to the mask situation."

Sacher says the situation has resulted in a "social media storm" and, despite what rumours are floating about online, the children are not locked in a room.

"The front door is open, we're waiting for the parents to pick them up and they haven't arrived."

He adds when the parents of three or four families involved were contacted on the phone, they made it clear they were not going to pick up their children, something Sacher says is "their decision."

"We're giving a little time for cooler heads to prevail," Sacher said. "We've been totally clear with our public, we totally understand the frustration with restrictions of the pandemic – we're all tired of it."

Josh May, a parent of students who attend the school but were not part of the demonstration, agrees that many residents in the central Alberta community are tired of the restrictions.

He's also surprised that it would come to children not being taught in a classroom.

"I found it unbelievable that we have kids not allowed to go to school. They're here to learn, they're tired of masks, we are all tired of masks and all these kids want to do is learn."

Parents of the children who were involved in the protest at Bowden Grandview School did come to the school to support their children but did not agree to speak with CTV News on camera.

Another student, who attends school in Olds, says he held a similar demonstration because it is something he believes in.

"It was part of a peaceful protest we had going on, same as this school I believe," said Cale Graville. "I tried to get a lot of kids into it.

"I want to fight this, I know it's right."

It's the second day that students used the school as a location to demonstrate, something that Sacher isn't comfortable with.

"I just think it's not appropriate to use a school as a place to protest. Schools need to be protected, they are special places."

Sacher says the protest has been peaceful, but the "storytelling" on social media is the real issue.

"That's where it's become a bit concerning."

The school says it also offered up online learning for the students involved, but the parents refused.

However, as a result of the controversy, the school made the decision to put all classes into online learning for Friday and this coming Monday, with classes set to resume Tuesday.

(With files from Chris Epp) Top Stories

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