By” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A more detailed mask policy has been announced for BC schools, requiring staff and older students to wear face coverings in high-traffic areas. High-traffic areas include buses and common areas such as hallways, and masks will also be mandatory when students are outside of their learning group and physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons will be exempt from the rule. Even when wearing a mask, staff and students must maintain a physical distance from people outside their learning group. Efforts will be put in place to ensure there is not crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups in a school setting, even if non-medical masks are being worn. Non-medical masks will be available for staff if someone becomes ill while at school.

The education ministry is providing more funding to school districts to support the purchase of up to 1.5 million masks, enough for every public school staff member and student to have at least two masks. And Canadian Shield, a personal protective equipment manager in Ontario, is donating 54,500 face shields to BC schools.

Other health and safety guidelines include increased cleaning of high-contact surfaces and increased hand hygiene. School districts can also install transparent barriers for people who have more contact with others, such as front-desk staff, bus drivers or food services staff.

Another key health and safety measure is the establishment of learning groups. A learning group includes students and staff who remain together throughout the school quarter, semester or year, and can be made up of a single class or multiple classes of students.

Learning groups will sometimes join for activities like physical education or music, or they may be secondary students taking the same courses. More information on learning groups, including examples can be found” online.

Guidelines for school boards and independent authorities also include details on other areas:

“¢ Mental health

“¢ Child care

“¢ Inclusive education

“¢ Blended learning

“¢ Assessments

“¢ Graduation program

“¢ Indigenous students and families

“¢ Food and meal plans for students in need

Each school district will communicate further details to parents, students and staff individually and post further details online by Aug. 26.

For more detailed information on plans, click” here.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel