Calling for mandatory masks in schools when children return in September

Students are set to return to classes in September, without a requirement to wear masks at school.

Some parents and pediatricians are calling for a provincial mandate, to protect children.

“In the scope of understanding that children spend so much time indoors, in schools, it’s cautious and it’s protection to have these measures in place,” said Wing Li, with Support our Students.

The public education advocacy group is also calling for smaller class sizes and better ventilation in schools.

“We had to shut schools down twice… so moving forward, how can not we try to mitigate that,” said Li.

Public health measures are being eased and removed in schools.

“Masks have been proven to be very effective at decreasing COVID transmission in a number of indoor settings… with school being an indoor setting… masks are really an essential mitigation measure,” said Dr. Tehseen Ladha, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the University of Alberta.

“We also know that severe COVID is low risk in kids, but it’s not zero risk… we just need several more months of mitigation measures in schools to decrease the risk before that population becomes eligible for vaccine.”

Trials are underway to see if vaccines are safe for children under 12, but results aren’t expected for several months.

“If there is a fourth wave, and looks like there will be, it will largely be among the unvaccinated, and children under 12 are unvaccinated,” added Ladha.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending students up to Grade 12 continue to wear masks in schools.

“Right now we think that schools will have the option to choose what their school’s rules will be for their community, but that’s a patchwork,” said Li.

“A lot of them (parents) are disappointed that the government is doing nothing, it seems like, not even the bare minimum that we had last year.”

Some parents are waiting to see what case numbers are before deciding to send their kids back with masks or not.

“If the cases are high… I would say keep the masks going, but if the cases are low, maybe just go from there, take it month-by-month,” said Jessica Beaver, a mother of two.

According to Ladha, some parents against masking in schools are worried not being able to see faces will affect a child’s development.

“It’s been amazing to see how children can pick up on facial cues, even when half the face is masked,” said Ladha.

She believes that the greater risk to development would be if schools needed to be shut down again, due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri