Policy Update: Masks no longer mandatory on campus

As of Friday July 22, masks will not be mandatory at Vicars School.

Mask-wearing remains one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 (along with vaccines). Students, staff, and clinic clients are still strongly encouraged to wear masks while on campus, especially when working in close quarters.

However, it will no longer be compulsory.

As with all of our COVID policies, this decision is subject to change. We will continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic, as well as government and industry regulations, and will update our policies as necessary.

We have not come to this decision lightly.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have done the best we can to keep our school community safe, create a positive learning and working environment, follow (sometimes unclear) government guidelines, and keep our doors open for both students and clients. It’s not been easy, and not all of our decisions have been universally popular. We expect this latest update will be no different.

Instead of just announcing this policy change and moving on, we decided to go into more detail about how we came to this decision. So whether you agree or disagree with this policy change, please take a few moments to read the rest of this announcement.

About our decision

We made a deliberate choice earlier this spring to keep all our COVID protocols in place until the end of the September-June academic year. This was out of an abundance of caution, but also to avoid unnecessary confusion and disruption for classes heading into exams. We also—naively, perhaps—hoped that by the summer the trajectory of the pandemic would be clear and that there would be a consensus from government and experts on what to do.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

While the Alberta government has dropped all public health measures for COVID-19, other jurisdictions and industries (like air travel) have maintained or even resumed their masking, testing, or vaccine requirements. Meanwhile, many medical experts have publicly been calling for governments to bring mask mandates back.

We found ourselves in the unenviable position of having to make this decision independently.

There were a lot of factors to consider:

Your safety. We have a responsibility, as health care professionals and as educators, to put health and safety first and to make evidence-based decisions.

Government regulations. Since the government of Alberta has dropped its COVID-19 public health rules, Alberta Advanced Education has also been gradually getting rid of its supports and accommodations for schools like ours. Maintaining COVID-19 policies that are out of step with the government’s approach will only get more difficult.

Your physical comfort. Wearing a mask during a massage can be uncomfortable and stressful, especially when you’re face-down on the table. For us to keep a policy in place that negatively affects your clinic experience, we would have to have a very good reason to do so.

Your peace of mind. Feeling comfortable on campus goes beyond the physical, though. We have heard from clients and students who are more at ease knowing that we require everyone on campus to wear a mask. Others, meanwhile, have told us that the current masking policy has been a source of frustration.

Efficacy. We had become part of a small minority of businesses in Alberta that still made masks mandatory. We’ve never been afraid of standing apart from the crowd, but when it comes to a pandemic there is power in numbers. Knowing that almost all of the other public and semi-public spaces that our students and clients visit are mask-optional, we realized that the overall public health impact of our policy is lower than it once was.

The bottom line

This pandemic is not over, and even fully vaccinated people are at risk of catching COVID-19. Masks, vaccines, and carefully monitoring your own symptoms are still the best way to avoid catching and spreading the disease.

But given the current conditions in Alberta and on our campuses, we have decided that the best course of action for our community is to leave the choice of where and when to wear a mask up to each individual.

We will never discourage a student, client, or staff member from wearing a mask. And we continue to recommend that everyone get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, as well as other vaccine-preventable communicable diseases.

When you’re at our clinic, you are more than welcome to request that your therapist wear a mask during your treatment. And we know you’ll show the same courtesy if your therapist asks you to do so.

Thank you for your support and feedback over the last few months. It’s been very moving to be reminded how invested our students and clients are in the school community. Keeping each other safe is a collective responsibility.

Please take care of yourselves, and each other.

Yours in health,

Maryhelen Vicars, President
Sarah Ward-Bakken, Executive Director
Robin Collum, Communications Director

Robin Collum
Author: Robin Collum