St. Albert Public Schools took matters into its own hands when a delivery of personal protective equipment from the province came late. 

With classes restarting Monday, the division put out a call for help when the government supplies hadn’t arrived on Friday.

“It was the little ones that we were a little bit more concerned (about) because any of the masks that we did have were larger size, so we had to start looking for them,” communications manager Paula Power told CTV News Edmonton.

Local clothing store Sweet Boutique was one of several shops that got an urgent call the next day.

“The store was packed and my daughter came to me and said, ‘The school board has called. And they’re looking for as many masks as we can spare,’” owner Laura Oladokun recalled.

“It just sort of surprised me that this was the state that they were in and that they even had to worry about that the day before school went back.”

Sweet Boutique found about 300 children’s masks in its inventory.

“Within about an hour, hour-and-a-half, someone from district office had come and picked them up. It was a really quick turnaround.”

Power laughed: “It was a bit of an adventure for our division.”

Our deep thanks go to Laura and her team at Sweet Boutique. They’ve jumped in to help us ensure our elementary schools have a supply of child-sized reusable masks. We are fortunate to have such great local businesses who support our community.

— St. Albert Public (@StAlbertPublic) August 30, 2020

The shipment from the government ended up arriving Sunday, just in time.

But Power said the division has all along taken action to be well prepared.

“Even before the government announced that they were going to be sending PPE out to schools, we had started looking for that and purchasing that on our own already,” she commented.

“We’re going to hang on to these (from Sweet Boutique) because we just don’t know what things will look like in a few months.”

The store has another 600 more in stock in case the division comes calling again.

“Two masks per child is not going to make it throughout the whole school year,” Oladokun said.

And for all the uncertainty the pandemic has caused her business, the masks have been a source of steadiness.

“Never in the history of our modern retail has there ever become a product that every man, woman and child need – and not just need, but legally need,” she said.

“Where you’re at the point where you’re not going to be able to stay afloat and you may have to consider laying off staff or shortening and closing down… to have this buoy of a product that’s kind of come out of nowhere and that the people are coming here to buy, it’s just really, really helpful to us.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson