Billings superintendent hopeful mask mandate will end before school year does

Posted at 5:54 PM, Nov 03, 2021

Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Wednesday that the availability of the Covid vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 could lead to the end of the district’s mask mandate.

The move away from masks won’t happen overnight, if it does, but Upham hopes that it will happen before the end of the school year.

“I think after the families of these 5- to 11-year-olds have the opportunity to get vaccinated then that provides a question for all of us. Do we continue with masking, do we lift the masking?” he said.

While there will not be vaccine clinics at any of the schools, Upham hopes that people will take advantage of the family-friendly clinics being offered by RiverStone health at the Metra Nov. 13 and 20, with second doses being given on Dec. 4 and 11.

He says school officials will be keeping a close eye on what is happening with Covid in the community before making any decisions on removing masks.

“I think we look at the other metrics that are attached to that. The hospital capacity. The infection rates. I think once the vaccination runs its course, I think as a society we have to say this is it. This is where we are, and this is where we have to move forward and live with it," Upham says.

The number of students and staff testing positive for Covid in School District 2 continues to be above where it was last year. More than 100 students in the district have been steadily testing positive for the virus this year. The highest number from last year was 88.

“We are watching where all those metrics are right now and they are not dropping. How many months down the road? We will look and see how many people get vaccinated. We will look at it month by month, so we will go from there,” says Upham.