(News Bulletin file)

(News Bulletin file)

Ladysmith school trustees vote against Grade 6-7 mask mandate

Island Health medical health officer discusses issues with trustees at March 10 meeting

With students on the verge of spring break, Nanaimo-Ladysmith trustees narrowly voted against strengthening mask rules at schools.

The B.C. of Ministry of Education tightened mask-wearing regulations in February, mandating masks for secondary school students.

At a school board meeting Wednesday night, trustee Tania Brzovic introduced a motion, amended by Lisa Marie Barron, seeking to mandate masks for Grade 6 and 7 students in all indoor areas of schools.

“As we know, we are heading into spring break and … we don’t have the same level of controls, in terms of our student behaviour,” Brzovic said at the meeting. “We don’t know what families are going to be doing. There’s concerns people may not be following provincial health guidelines and may put themselves at greater risk, which means when they return to school, we will have greater risk of COVID in our schools.”

Dr. Sandra Allison, Island Health medical health officer, was present at the meeting and advised the board to follow established guidelines from health officials and not enact additional regulations. Masks are only one in “a hierarchy of controls,” she said.

Allison said she trusts the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the very careful eye that they’ve had on school cases. High-risk cases have been monitored and they’ve defined an approach in school to ensure they are protecting the safety of children in the least-restrictive means possible. Allison said the reason why they use that as an “ethical principle” is not to impose additional burden, but to allow people to be unimpeded as much as possible with as much protection as possible.

“I appreciate that there are opportunities to add a ton of layers in here, I could name 10 more things you could do, but I wouldn’t want you to do them because I believe that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, as they’ve reviewed the evidence and given us new guidelines just a month ago … that gave us better guidance for the older students,” said Allison.

Elaine Wilkinson, Stephanie Higginson, Charlene McKay, Chantel O’Neill and Bill Robinson voted against the motion. Brzovic, Barron, Greg Keller and Jessica Stanley voted for.

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