Grande Prairie Public School Division Superintendant Sandy McDonald says the pivot from the province when it comes to face masks shows him and other officials a willingness to adapt.

McDonald says the government is showing flexibility when it comes to its planning, which is something he believes can only help school boards going forward.

“The COVID situation is one in which we cannot eliminate the risk, so at the core of our response is using as many different strategies as we can to each contribute to minimizing risk,” he says.

“Mask use is something that Dr. Hinshaw has said has the potential to help minimize the spread of the virus and it’s good to see it’s incorporated in the government’s planning.”

Masks will now be mandatory for Grade 4-12 students and staff in common areas like hallways, on school buses, or shared spaces where social distancing is not possible. However, mask use for kindergarten to Grade 3 students will continue to be optional.

In addition, the province announced it will be distributing 1.6 million masks to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff in public, separate, Francophone, charter, and independent schools across Alberta. It’s a move that McDonald says will take a lot of pressure re-launch operations.

“Money is not an infinite product in our system by any stretch of the imagination, so every little bit helps…and having masks provided for both staff and students is a positive thing.”

McDonald says a detailed board plan, along with a public survey, will be available to parents by the middle of August.