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Saskatchewan Education Minister Gord Wyant speaks to the media at the Legislative Building, in Regina, on March 20, 2019.

Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

The Opposition NDP is accusing the Saskatchewan Party government of dumping a decision about mask use in schools onto local boards instead of making the call itself.

Education critic Carla Beck says she’s frustrated by what she calls an off-loading of responsibility.

Education Minister Gord Wyant has said boards for the province’s 27 school divisions are in the best position to make decisions for their staff and students, in consultation with public health, about precautions for when schools reopen in September.

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The government has put in place guidelines that require divisions to address issues like sanitation, physical contact and the grouping of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beck says the province’s plan is missing details, like defining class sizes.

And she says the government’s direction on mask use is confusing.

For schools that opt for masks, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer said Tuesday that Grade 4 to 12 students should wear them in busy areas such as hallways and on buses. For Grade 9 to 12 students, masks could also be worn in classrooms when there isn’t enough space to stay far apart.

“I’m very frustrated with the fact that we’re having any of these discussions two weeks before teachers go back into class,” Beck said Wednesday.

“Right now, what I see is all of the political fallout and all of the concerned questions being directed at school boards. And frankly I don’t think that that is fair.”

Ontario and Alberta are making masks mandatory for Grade 4 to 12 students when their schools reopen.

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Regina Public Schools and Saskatoon Public Schools are among some school divisions in Saskatchewan requiring the same.

The province says it expects more will follow suit and has ordered six million masks for staff and students.

Canada's chief public health officer says she has confidence in Health Canada's process for approving a vaccine. Dr. Theresa Tam would not comment on Russia's decision Tuesday to approve the world's first COVID-19 vaccine but says like all Canadians, she is anxiously awaiting a successful vaccine candidate. The Canadian Press

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