What Winnipeg school division is making masks mandatory

WINNIPEG — With questions about masks being mandatory when kids go back to school still being thrown around, one Winnipeg school division isn’t waiting for direction from the province.

The St. James Assiniboia School Division is taking it upon itself to make them mandatory for teachers and most students.

Teachers and parents are showing support for this initiative including Cheralyn Regehr, whose four kids go to Ecole Bannatyne.

“I think it’s a good idea because staff are going to have close interaction with students. Have a mask and not have to do the social distancing as much with that,” said Regehr.

The school division said all staff will be given two re-usable facemasks and a face shield, and students grades six and up will be getting facemasks as well.

Acting Superintendent Mike Wake said the cost for masks could be up to $50,000, but Regehr thinks the cost will be worth it.

“There’s a lot of kids and a lot of families involved and the more that we can stop the spread, the better the school year will go,” she said.

Teachers like Kent McPherson agree that this is a good decision.

“I applaud the division for being willing to take the initiative,” said McPherson, who is the president of the St. James Assiniboia Teachers’ Association.

St. James Assiniboia is the first school division in Winnipeg to supply masks for staff and students, and other school divisions might follow suit and are looking to the province for direction.

“We have let the government know that school divisions would require enough lead time as possible,” said Allan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Board Association.

Regehr said she hopes masks are only one of the small changes when her kids go back to school.

“They hear all kinds of things about COVID so they have a little bit of fear and being in a school environment will help them socially, physically. But, I do have some concerns about just that things are so different for them. I hope that we can keep things as normal as possible,” said Regehr.