Edmonton Trustees Vote to Ask for Mask Mandate in Public Schools

Edmonton Trustees Vote to Ask for Mask Mandate in Public Schools
Edmonton Public School trustees have voted to ask the province to implement mask mandates in schools. (George Frey/Getty Images)
Rachel Emmanuel

EDMONTON—Edmonton public school trustees have voted to ask the province to reinstate mask mandates when a school is on outbreak status due to respiratory illnesses.

During a board meeting on Tuesday, trustees unanimously approved a motion seeking a meeting with Alberta’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Mark Joffe, Premier Danielle Smith, and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. Trustees also plan to ask Joffe for guidance about when to implement additional health measures.

Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks said health officials and the provincial government are showing an absence of leadership amid high cases of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.

“The board of trustees in this case and the division is being put in this position to make decisions that we quite frankly have no jurisdiction or no expertise,” she told CBC News.

Smith has already said she won’t permit any further masking for kindergarten to grade 12 students.

“The detrimental effects of masking on the mental health, development and education of children in classroom settings is well understood, and we must turn the page on what has been an extremely difficult time for children, along with their parents and teachers,” she said in a statement on Oct. 29.

Her comments followed an Alberta judge ruling that a February order lifting masking requirements in schools was “unreasonable” because it was made by cabinet and not by the province’s chief medical health officer.

Smith has directed Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to examine whether to appeal.

On Wednesday, B.C. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ruled out reimplementing the “heavy hand” of mask mandates. She said masks should only be used in the right settings, like health care.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday his government had no plans for another mandatory mask mandate but they were recommended in case of illness.

Ontario has also been hit by a wave of influenza, COVID-19, and RSV, with cases filling every pediatric ICU bed in the province. Ontario chief medical health officer Dr. Kieran Moore on Monday said he encouraged people to wear masks indoors. He also said he hasn’t ruled out mandates.

Moore previously said he would recommend masking in certain indoor settings if hospitals began cancelling surgeries in response to a surge.

But on Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones told reporters wearing a mask is a personal decision.

“Personal choice is important here, and we should not be passing judgment on people who wear a mask or not wear a mask,” she said while wearing a mask. “We all make individual choices.”