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Missoula public school administrators recommend mask wearing for school start

Hellgate High School
Posted at 2:28 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 16:28:51-04

MISSOULA — Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) teachers and students will start off wearing masks most of the time if trustees accept a recommendation from administrators and the District's COVID Task Force.

The district already has a plan for fully re-opening schools on schedule but has had to adjust the protocol for requiring masks, based on the rapidly changing advisories from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Superintendent Rob Watson wrapped up meetings with the District's COVID Task Force last week, explaining the importance of a six-week window, giving the district time to watch local case counts and study in-district data after the summer.

"I would encourage the Task Force to look at like a 6-week time frame that we can actually gather some data in the district before we make any other decisions. No matter what the decision is. That we hold on to it for at least six weeks before we revisit it," Watson said.

Under the recommendation to trustees, students and teachers would be required to wear masks full-time indoors and on buses, although teachers will have some leeway when teaching and making presentations socially distanced. Students can also lower masks when working alone. And no masks would be required outside.

The proposal has already generated strong advocacy from both sides of the debate.

"I'm especially concerned about K-through-6 kids that will have no defense against this Delta variant that is putting children on ventilators right now."

"The right to choose whether a child wears a mask in class is a parental decision, not a school board's."

"Recommend all you want, this country is a free country. You're going to have some big problems if you try to mandate."

"All of this experience has made me feel like school is an unsafe place. And I felt like I was going to get in trouble for just breathing. I don't have to ask permission to breathe anymore. I want it to be our choice whether we wear a mask at school, or we don't."

Watson has told the Task Force the district isn't as concerned with virus transmission on contact surfaces this year but will continue with cleaning procedures.

Trustees will consider the mask recommendation during Tuesday's board meeting, which is being scheduled as an online virtual meeting.