Masks now required in B.C. classrooms for all grades

The order will remain in place for the rest of the school term.

Coronavirus cases in kids age five through 11 have been on the rise. | FatCamera / Getty Images

All students from kindergarten to Grade 12 are now required to wear masks, B.C.’s top doctor and the province’s education minister have announced Friday

Previously, masks were only required for students from grades 4 to 12.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the order will be in place for the remainder of the school term “as one additional layer to help reduce risk of transmission in classrooms, in schools.”

Henry and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside have been under mounting pressure from parents and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to do more in schools to reduce the possibility of transmission of COVID-19, and to report possible exposures.

With increasing cases of COVID in children age five through 11, for whom there is not yet an approved vaccine, the teachers’ union has been advocating for a mask mandate for children from kindergarten to Grade 3.

In the absence of a provincewide mask mandate for the younger grades, school districts in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby had instituted their own.

Eighteen Vancouver Island schools — including seven in Greater Victoria — are now on Island Health’s list of outbreaks or clusters of COVID-19 in schools, up from 10 on Monday.