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Mask mandate added for Montreal elementary kids in effect after spring break

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 6:15 pm EDT

MONTREAL – Montreal elementary students will have to wear a medical mask when they come back from March break next week and the added pandemic precaution has some parents are worried.

Primary school students will have to wear the mask at all times when indoors and while riding the bus to or from school.

“We have followed all the rules but this rule is passing a line,” said parent Diana Bianco.

“This rule is unacceptable.”

The new measure comes as Montreal Public Health monitors the concerning spread of virus variants on the island.

Bianco says since the return from December’s holiday break, her daughter has voiced her displeasure with the mask on to Bianco and her husband.

“She is uncomfortable with the mask, at moments, during her transitions, in the corridor when getting dressed to go outside, with the mask on her face she is out of breath,” she said.

“She’s voiced to myself and to her dad you know, ‘What if I can’t breathe properly? And I can’t take off my mask, because if I take off my mask my teacher is going to be mad at me, my teacher’s going to get upset at me.’”

Montreal schools say they are doing everything they can to keep students safe but say the government should remain flexible to cases like those of Lara. Certain students with special needs are exempt and the rule doesn’t apply on the playground.

“There needs to be a lot of thought put in as to how we can best serve students who have those needs, certain accommodations in this situation,” said Robert Green, a teacher at Westmount High.

“The government does have to keep an open mind and if there is a valid medical reason why a child cannot wear a medical mask, then that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis and perhaps exceptions need to be made,” said Chair of English Montreal School Board Joe Ortona.

Doctors have maintained through the pandemic that masks don’t have any bad effects on people.

“People are able to wear a mask hours at a time with no ill-effects and despite what a lot of people say, even if you have asthma you can wear a mask, asthma does not prevent oxygen from getting to your lungs, it doesn’t make you retain carbon dioxide,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, an epidemiologist and cardiologist.

Montreal public health officials say they are currently battling 43 outbreaks involving COVID-19 variants in schools and seven in daycares.

Ortona says the EMSB is taking every measure possible to ensure students’ safety and staff has been incredibly diligent in order to prevent outbreaks.

“The point of wearing masks is to limit transmission and especially now that we’re coming out of March breaks, schools are starting up again with the concerns about the new variants, we have to be a little bit careful,” said Labos.

“I am not a doctor, no I am not, and I never will claim to be one, but I’m a mom and I know what’s best for my child,” said Bianco.