HALIFAX -- New Brunswick students are expected to wear masks and they are mandatory at the older levels, just like in a store said George Daley, the province's deputy minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Daley said enforcing this rule would play out just like enforcing any other rule.

The first step would be to talk to the student and encourage them to follow the rule, if that did not lead to compliance, then the school would talk to the parents.

"If it gets to an issue of complete refusal we would have to take steps at that point that may involve removal from school," Daley said. "We must remember that public health has indicated we should be wearing masks. This is not something that we are putting up for debate."

Daley also announced that the return to class will be staggered so that teachers have time to talk to students about new safety protocols.

"It will help them lower their anxiety from the first day, along with ensuring that they're adequately informed and supported in the understanding of the new safety protocols that will be part of their everyday school life," Daley said.

That includes going over the mandatory mask policy for older grades where physical distancing can't be maintained and in common areas.

Students will need to bring two clean face masks to school with them every day and a plastic bag or container to store them when they are not in use. They also need to have a separate bag for used or dirty masks.

Mask use in younger students is not mandatory as these students are in bubbles, or classroom groupings, Daley said.

"At the lower levels we are encouraging mask use," Daley said. "We will continue to encourage it, we will continue to have those conversations with students understanding that the little children have a different capacity level to understand the importance of it so it's a little more challenging."

Daley had a few final words of advice for parents, students, and staff before they return to school next week.

"Please self-screen every morning," Daley said. "If you're sick, stay home."

The province has also developed an "infographic checklist," Daley said. "It is available on our website and we encourage you to print it and post it in your homes."

The operational plan each school is now posted on the respective school's website.