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Prince George parent asks school district to adopt COVID-19 mandatory mask policy

Dr. Zoe Meletis spoke to the board on behalf of her daughter
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Dr. Zoe Meletis.

Local parent and UNBC professor Dr. Zoe Meletis attended School District No. 57's (SD57) public board meeting last night (Jan. 5) to ask the district to consider implementing a mandatory mask policy.

Meletis says her daughter has been voluntarily wearing a COVID-19 face-covering in school since September.

“Yesterday, my eight-year-old daughter called me to help her type up a petition. She was trying to start a petition about wearing masks in school. I asked her why and she said, ‘Because if the government isn’t going to do it, we should.’ More people wearing masks will make it safer,” explained Meletis, during the public input portion of the meeting.

“So I am here tonight to forward an elegantly simple way to increase COVID-19 era safety in our schools. I am asking you to consider the mandated wearing of masks across all ages at SD57 with medical exceptions.”

Meletis also provided the names of several other parents and educational professionals advocating or mandatory masks in schools.

Although Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made masks mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in November, she has not implemented the same measures in schools.

Stating that schools are not public places, Dr. Henry has noted that because schools have COVID-19 safety plans, mask-wearing is encouraged in some areas but not mandatory.

However, Meletis encouraged the Prince George district to go beyond the provincial guidelines.

“With this swift and simple measure, you can best provincial guidelines and give Prince George families what they want what the ability to feel safer about keeping kids in school,” said Meletis.

“We don’t want to pull kids out of school for safety as that is inequitable and unsustainable. We want our kids to learn, have fun, and be with their peers. We don’t want to have to choose between our children’s wellbeing and education.”

As the Jan. 5 public board meeting was scheduled as a special meeting, trustees were not allowed to add to the agenda so any motions or discussion regarding a mandatory mask policy can not be addressed until the board’s regular public meeting on Jan. 26.

“This is not an abstract problem. You can do something right now to make a difference,” added Meletis.

“Please consider adopting a mandatory masking policy across all ages. We are one policy away from feeling safer.”

In Prince George, since the pandemic reached the region, a total of 18 schools, including 14 SD57 members, have experienced at least one COVID-19 exposure event, per Northern Health.

  • Cedars Christian School (Independent) - Dec. 14-16
    • Dec. 14-16 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 30, 2020
  • Sacred Heart Elementary (Diocese of Prince George) - Dec. 10-11, 2020; Nov. 25-27, 2020
    • Dec. 10-11 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 25
  • Pinewood Elementary (SD57) - Dec. 14-15, 2020; Dec. 14-18, 2020
    • Dec. 14-15 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 29, 2020
    • Dec. 14-18 = Self-monitoring ended Jan. 1, 2021
  • Southridge Elementary (SD57) - Dec. 10, 2020
    • Dec. 10 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 24, 2020
  • Heather Park Elementary (SD57) - Dec. 1-2, 3, 4, 7-8, 2020
    • Dec. 11 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 25, 2020 
  • Westwood Elementary (SD57) - Dec. 8 and 9, 2020
    • Dec. 8 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 22, 2020
    • Dec. 9 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 23, 2020 
  • St. Mary's Catholic School (Diocese of Prince George) - Dec. 8-11, 2020; Dec. 7-10, 2020; Dec. 3-4, 2020; Dec. 1-2, 2020
    • Dec. 7-10 = Self-monitoring ended Dec 24, 2020
    • Dec. 8-11 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 25, 2020
  • Shas Ti-Kelly Road Secondary (SD57) - Dec. 7-11, 2020; Dec. 1-2, 2020; Nov. 30, 2020
    • Dec. 7-11 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 25, 2020
  • College Heights Secondary (SD57) - Dec. 10-11, 2020; Dec. 17-18, 2020
    • Dec. 10-11 = Self-monitoring ended Dec. 25, 2020
    • Dec. 17-18 = Self-monitoring ended Jan. 1, 2021
  • D.P. Todd Secondary (SD57) - Dec. 1 and 2, 2020
  • Prince George Secondary (SD57) - Dec. 1-3, 2020; Nov. 18, 2020; Oct. 2, 2020
  • Peden Hill Elementary (SD57) - Nov. 12-17, 17-20, 24-27, Nov. 30, 2020
  • Ecole College Heights Elementary (SD57) - Nov. 19-20, 20-24, 2020
  • Beaverly Elementary (SD57) - Nov. 23-24, 2020
  • Foothills Elementary (SD57) - Nov. 23, 2020
  • Van Bien Elementary (SD57) - Nov. 9-10, 2020
  • Ron Brent Elementary (SD57) - Oct. 30, 2020
  • Immaculate Conception School (Diocese of Prince George) - Oct. 21-23, 2020

As of this publication, Northern Health has reported 2,231 COVID-19 cases since March 2020, which has included 31 deaths.

This also includes 17 people admitted into critical care or ICU among 27 hospitalizations and 1,727 recoveries.

Dr. Henry is scheduled to provide a written update around 3 p.m. today (Jan. 6).