CALGARY -- The province announced a mask procurement process Saturday afternoon that will enable it to provide reusable masks in time for the start of K-12 classes this fall, after questions were raised about its ability to deliver close to two million masks in under a month.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange's office issued a statement Saturday in response, saying, "Some have recently questioned the ability of Alberta's government to purchase the requisite 1.6 million reusable masks in time for the start of K-12 classes this fall. Orders totalling 1.7 million masks have been placed - one to IFR, an Alberta-based company, and the other to Old Navy."

The total value of the mask contracts is $4.2 million.

The statement explained that since a decision on how students would return to class was announced July 21, the decision on masks was pending. In the meantime, it continued, "Alberta Education, in conjunction with the Provincial Operations Centre (POC), began preparing for the contingency should Dr. Hinshaw decide to recommend masking in schools."

Because of the short timeline, the statement went on, the province "has directly approached experienced, established vendors to fulfil personal protective equipment (PPE) needs for school reopenings. Government of Alberta contracting policies allow for this expedited process in urgent situations, as a standard request for proposal tendering process would not allow the government to fulfil our schools' needs in the timely manner required."

"Both Alberta Education and the POC are confident that masks, sanitizer, thermometers and face shields will be distributed to school divisions prior to the resumption of classes."

It added that students, schools and staff will receive PPE at the start of school.