BC Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside announced new mask requirements in BC classrooms on Thursday.

Non-medical masks are now required in all middle and high school classrooms, and everywhere else indoors in schools.

Staff from K-12 will be required to mask up.

There will be significant exceptions, however: students will not be required to wear their mask while they are sitting at their desks, while they are eating and drinking, or when there is a physical barrier in place.

Wearing a mask remains a personal choice in the elementary school system. Updated guidelines for the childcare sector will be announced next week.

The previous requirements were for students to have to wear their masks in high-traffic areas, and in other places where they could not properly social distance.

“We want students, their families, and staff to feel confident with the safety measures in place,” said Whiteside. “That’s why we are making these updates.

“Since the start of the school year, we have paid close attention to our schools and learned much, including the importance of having robust safety plans and using the layers of protection. Masks are one important layer and these updated guidelines will strengthen how and where they should be used to protect everyone.”

School principals and vice-principals at each public and independent school are being provided with updated COVID-19 health and safety checklists to ensure they consistently follow provincial guidelines.

Stephanie Higginson, President of the British Columbia School Trustees Association, said that despite the measures already in place within BC school “working well”, the enhanced guidelines should help maintain that safety “as the pandemic evolves.”

There are close to 750,000 people that interact within the BC education system on a daily basis.