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North Okanagan-Shuswap schools change mask rules in effort to get ahead of Omicron

School District 83 Superintendent Donna Kriger asked people to work together to keep schools open
New mask rules will apply at School District 83 schools in 2022. (File Photo)

The superintendent of School District 83 North Okanagan-Shuswap is appealing to parents in an effort to prevent any potential school closures in the region.

In a Jan. 3 media release and accompanying letter, Donna Kriger asked people to put their differences aside and work together to keep schools open.

“I know people have varying opinions around COVID, vaccinations, and masking. But, I also know people love their kids,” she wrote. “Going to school, and in-person instruction, are very important for our kids’ mental and physical well-being.”

Kriger said the North Okanagan-Shuswap’s lower-than-provincial-average vaccination rates and SD83’s limited number of on-call staff means there’s potential for staff shortages and school closures.

To attempt to get ahead and ensure that doesn’t happen, Kriger explained new masking measures would be implemented in SD83 schools.

“Beginning Jan. 4, our district will be working to procure a limited supply of N95 masks for staff. In addition to this, we will be sending additional procedural masks to schools for students to use in place of their cloth masks,” wrote Kriger.

“Procedural masks are breathable disposable masks designed for one-time use typically in medical environments. They are used to protect both patients and staff from the transfer of respiratory droplets…”

A very small number of mask exemptions apply according to Dec. 3 public health orders. More information on exemptions can be found in Kriger’s letter.

The superintendent also expressed her appreciation and admiration for SD83 staff, some of whom she said have felt immense stress and anxiety as they “in many instances sacrificed the safety of themselves and family members to ensure that students within the district have enjoyed the privilege of learning in a face-to-face environment.”

Another measure being taken by the school district is the suspension of all outside use of school facilities. SD83 secretary treasurer Dale Culler announced the suspension in a Jan. 4 media release.

He said the school district made a decision to allow access to schools only to those supporting activities that benefit student learning and well-being.

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