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COVID-19: Edmonton, Calgary school boards weigh in on Kenney dropping mask mandate for kids

Reaction came in strong from Alberta school districts after Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that his government was lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

Mandatory masks for kids 12 and under will end on Feb. 13 at 11:59 p.m., he said at a press conference. For children and youths of all ages, wearing masks will no longer be required at schools.

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In a letter to school authorities, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange outlined the impact that relaxing COVID-19 restrictions will have on schools and students.

“I have been encouraged to see a downward trend in the number of Alberta schools shifted to at-home learning over the last few weeks,” she said.

“At the peak of the fifth wave, there were 29 schools that were shifted to at-home learning, and today, only seven of the over 2,500-plus schools in our province remain learning at home.”

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LaGrange said the masking requirement that will be removed effective Feb. 14 will apply to any students in schools or on school buses. Masking will still be required for adult staff and drivers.

“At this time, prevention measures, including cohorting, as well as enhanced cleaning and sanitization, will remain in school environments,” she said.

Read more:

COVID-19: Alberta doctors, mayors react to Kenney removing vaccine passport, restrictions

The Calgary Board of Education told parents Tuesday night: “We know families have many questions about this announcement and what it means for their child. In the next few days, we will review our health measures in view of these changes.”

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The Calgary Catholic School District said all health measures in its buildings will stay in place until further notice.

CCSD spokesperson Felicia Zuniga said the senior administrative team will be working on “a plan of action” in response to the province’s announcement.

Read more:

Decision on Alberta’s vaccine passport expected this week as province records 39 COVID-19 deaths Monday

In a series of tweets, Edmonton Public School Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the province’s announcement came as a surprise to the district.

“School divisions were not consulted on this shift,” she wrote. “If we were, EPSB would have shared the desire to move slowly, to listen to parents, to listen to boards.”

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However, she emphasized school divisions have no authority to require mandatory masking.

“I know this will deeply upset many,” Estabrooks wrote.

“With low vaccination rates in kids age five to 11, this definitely feels like we are taking away a key layer in the approach to keep students and staff as safe as possible.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for youth'

Alberta expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for youth

Alberta expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for youth

Global News has reached out to Edmonton Catholic School Division.

Support Our Students Alberta tweeted the changes Kenney announced are “unarguably reckless and illogical.”

“Once again, the UCP prioritizes politics over the health and safety of students,” the group said.

“To abruptly remove masks from schools on short notice, without school board consultation, risks throwing schools into chaos yet again.”

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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