Alberta Bans School Masking Mandates, Guarantees In-Person Learning


The Alberta government says school boards cannot require students to wear masks at school or be required to take online classes.

EDMONTON — The Alberta government says school boards cannot require students to wear masks at school or be required to take online classes.

In a statement, the government says it has made regulatory changes that ensure students have access to in-person learning.

The changes also indicate that students cannot be denied an in-person education by school authorities based on their personal decision whether or not to wear a mask.

Last week, the Edmonton Public School Board asked Alberta Health and Alberta Education if it could require masks as schools deal with a surge of viral illnesses that are sending thousands of students home sick and strains hospitals.

Premier Danielle Smith says the changes will take effect immediately and create an inclusive environment by ensuring that personal and family choices are respected.

Smith criticized mask rules in schools, saying they had harmed students’ mental health, development and education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parents and students have told me time and time again that they want a normal school environment for their children,” Smith said in a statement Thursday. “We have taken steps to protect and improve educational choice.

“Families are free to make their own personal health decisions, and whatever that decision is, it will be supported by Alberta’s education system.”

The government said the change to in-person learning applies to students in grades 1 to 12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.

The change in masking applies to these same levels and schools, but also to early childhood services.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said the changes show the government has no idea what’s going on in Alberta schools.

“We know that respiratory disease outbreaks have become widespread this fall, causing intense stress and increased challenges for students, staff and families,” Hoffman said in a statement.

“School districts are struggling to staff classrooms as the disease spreads among students and employees.”

Hoffman said it’s unrealistic to expect school districts to be able to provide in-person and online classes simultaneously without additional resources.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2022

The Canadian Press




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