Mixed reviews as mask mandates come down in schools
Many question province's decision with only four weeks remaining in the school year
Parents, students and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are divided on the province's decision to end the mask mandate in schools with only a month left in the school year.
As of Tuesday, students and staff were no longer required to wear masks in school. It is now optional.
"We have needed masks as a key thing to keep schools open," said NSTU president Paul Wozney.
"We have really struggled to keep school doors open. We've been so wracked with not only student absences but staff absences day after day after day."
He said the union is split on the issue.
"I guess our real concern at this point is if, by lifting masks, are we at risk of seeing … cases go up even more," he said.
Wozney said the union is particularly concerned about graduating students.
"It would be a real shame to see anybody who hoped to walk across the stage at the end of June, to see that … put at risk…," he said.
Shyann Shute, a Halifax high school student who already contracted COVID, said she feared the change in the mask mandate at first, but believes COVID is coming for everyone.
"After having it, I just thought, what's the whole point of worrying about it?" said Shute, adding that she will continue to wear a mask in large crowds at schools.
However, not all students share that opinion.
High school student Djef Thompson said he is happy with the removal of the mask mandate because students have not been wearing their masks properly, and teachers haven't been enforcing it lately either.
Mauricio Garza, the father of a five-year-old, said his child is used to wearing a mask, and he wished the mandate stayed a little longer.
"It's only a few more weeks," Garza said while walking his son to school on Tuesday. "I would feel safer as a parent, and the kids are already used to it."
Franklin Che, another parent, said COVID hasn't been much of a concern in children. He said children cannot communicate effectively with their friends while wearing masks.
On Monday, Dr. Andrew Lynk, chief of pediatrics at the IWK Health Centre, tweeted that Nova Scotia pediatricians strongly recommend that mask use continue in school for the remainder of the school year.
To NS students, parents, teachers & staff. There are tons of CoVID infections around. NS Pediatricians strongly recommend we continue masking till school ends in 4 weeks. Protect yourselves, your classmates & teachers, your parents & family. Our healthcare system is strained.—@andrewlynk
"Protect yourselves, your classmates & teachers, your parents & family. Our healthcare system is strained," his tweet read.
With files from Nicola Seguin and Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash