On August 24, 2021, the BC government announced updated COVID-19 guidelines for K-12 schools and the post-secondary education sector.
- Masks – All K-12 staff, visitors and students (grades 4 to 12) will be required to wear masks in all indoor areas of schools and on school buses. Students in kindergarten to grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
- Vaccination – There will be no vaccination requirement for students or staff in K-12 school settings. Eligible students and staff are encouraged to get vaccinated.
- Cohorts/Learning Groups – Cohorts and learning groups which were utilized during the last school year will no longer be used.
- Physical Distancing – Although physical distancing of 2 metres is no longer required, schools can continue to use strategies to create space and distance where possible. Outdoor classes will still be encouraged.
- Food and drink– Meal programs and cafeterias can proceed with regular operation. Water fountain use will no longer be restricted.
- Cleaning – Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected at least once in a 24-hour period, and where visibly dirty.
- Daily Health Checks and hand hygiene protocols will continue.
- Extracurricular activities – All extracurricular activities including sports and arts programming will be permitted in accordance with any applicable public health orders.
- Local Measures – Local public health orders may implemented for regions, communities or particular schools to address specific issues or risks.
- Ventilation – The Minister of Education advised that there have been significant investments in ventilation systems in schools. Work is ongoing in this area to improve ventilation.
- Large Indoor Events – The requirement to provide proof of vaccination through the BC Vaccine Card will apply to large indoor events attended by parents, families and members of the public (including concerts and theatre events).
- BC Vaccine Card – The requirement to provide proof of vaccination through the BC Vaccine Card will apply to post-secondary campuses. This means that students will be required to show proof of vaccination in order to live on-campus in residence; attend restaurants/pubs on-campus; attend gym facilities; participate in varsity sports; participate in other student activities on-campus; attend sporting events and concerts on-campus, among other things. Further information regarding the BC Vaccine Card will be forthcoming.
- Vaccination of Students – The PHO did not mandate vaccination as a requirement for students to attend post-secondary classes on-campus.
- Vaccination of Staff/Faculty – The PHO did not make an order regarding vaccination of staff or faculty. Dr. Henry advised during the press conference that post-secondary institutions can make their own decisions, in consultation with public health, concerning vaccination policies for faculty and staff. Post-secondary institutions are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice prior to implementing vaccination policies for staff/faculty.
- Mask Order – The mask order for indoor public spaces will apply to post-secondary institutions and will require the wearing of masks in classroom settings and other indoor common spaces.
BC Reinstates Mask Order for Indoor Public Spaces
In addition to the education announcements, Dr. Henry announced that a general mask mandate for indoor public spaces across British Columbia effective August 25, 2021. This new order will apply to those ages 12 and older.
A prior PHO order requiring masks in indoor public spaces was repealed earlier this summer as BC moved through the steps of the BC Restart Plan. A mask order was reintroduced in Central Okanagan in July, and was expanded to the entire Interior Health Region recently due to increased case counts in that region. The masking requirement is now being expanded throughout the province as a further precaution.
The orders arising from these announcements are not yet available. Please stay tuned for further updates concerning these developments.
If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact your Harris lawyer, or any member of our Education Law Group.