BILLINGS — A group of people organized a parade of cars through the hospital corridor and around the Lincoln Center in downtown Billings on Tuesday night in support of Billings School District 2's mandatory mask policy.
"There is a collective group of humans who sincerely trust our administration and our elected officials who were elected to do a job and we believe they are doing their job to the best of their ability. We really want to show them that they have support and there's not just angry people or frustrated people in our community, but there are people in our community who do support them," said Clementine Lindley, Billings mother of students in third and sixth grades.
The parade first moved by Billings Clinic and SCL Health St. Vincent Healthcare, before moving by the Lincoln Center, where the office of Billings school Superintendent Greg Upham is located.
Lindley is at the head of a Facebook group she started after last week's protest of mandatory masking in Billings schools. It has about 1,400 members as of Tuesday, Lindley said.
“I felt like I was in a silo. I felt very alone as a parent of two children in the school district and as a parent that wears my mask in public and around our community. You look around, and there’s not many of us out there. I wanted to be able to find my tribe and my like-minded community members," Lindley said.
Lindley wouldn't share the name of the private social media group, because they don't want to stir up conflict with others in the community with differing opinions, Lindley said.
“We just don’t want to incite any sort of negative backlash or any sort of conflict. Our group is just about support and caring and being safe and taking the stance of science and our health care professionals and maintaining that point," Lindley said. “Not because we’re hiding anything, but because we just really want to make sure that our conversations are thoughtful and thorough and not emotionally charged. But are sincere conversations with each other back and forth," she added.
Lindley said her immediate family luckily hasn't gotten COVID-19, but they've seen friends, family and coworkers get the virus, and some have died. Lindley said the parade is a way to safely show her support in a socially distanced way.
"I think for us, it was a matter of how do we safely gather and show our administration and our school board that there is a group in our community that do support what they are doing. That does support their actions and honestly their bravery in this climate," Lindley said.
Briana Bergeron and her two students, one in middle school and one in high school, drove the family car in the parade. Bergeron said she is part of Lindley's Facebook group, and initially had the idea for the parade.
"It was really important to me to have our school district follow that plan that worked last year and hope that even in this more dangerous time, we can have our best chance of staying in school," Bergeron said.
Last year during in-person classes, Bergeron said her family was quarantined once because her students were close contacts while at school. They've already gotten two close contact notifications since school started last week.
“I think this year is different. Again, we’re wanting to do everything we can so we can stay in school as much as possible and keep our numbers down. Because it’s really scary out there for those of us just trying to keep our kids safe," Bergeron said.
The weekend before classes started up, Superintendent Greg Upham reversed course, requiring masks to be worn by Billings school staff and students, citing an outbreak on the Skyview High School football team. The same week, another outbreak was identified on the Skyview volleyball team.