BILLINGS — Monday was a big day for students at Billings Public Schools as they finally returned to a sense of normalcy after the mask mandate was lifted. For younger students, it’s a new experience as kindergartners and first graders have yet to attend school without wearing a mask.
After nearly two years of mask mandates, face coverings are now optional and parents like Jennifer Brown couldn’t be more thrilled.
“We waited to send Judah to kindergarten because we were hoping that this year, there would be some sort of normalcy for them, and obviously we were disappointed when things changed at the beginning of the year,” Brown said.
For students like Judah, going to school without a mask was a first.
“It’s been hard watching him go to school and not know what his friend’s faces look like,” Brown said.
Across town at Billings West High School, it was a return to the past.
“I would just say it was remarkably normal. It was not a real big switch, just like they have been, everybody was teaching and studying,” said Lance Edward.
Edward is an English teacher at West as well as the first vice president of the Billings Education Association. He says most kids ditched the masks on day one, but not all.
“There were a few kids in every class. I’d say the majority were not wearing masks. Same with teachers, a few wearing masks, the majority probably not,” Edward said.
Rachel Wertz has a daughter in the Billings Public Schools system. She has mixed emotions when it comes to the topic of masks in schools.
“I don’t think it was being done consistently or correctly. They’re obviously wearing a lot of surgical, weird masks that don’t fit properly. Being a registered nurse, it’s better than nothing,” Wertz said.
Regardless, Monday marks a return to normalcy. Though the virus is still around, many are hopeful that the lifting of the mask mandate is permanent and a sign of better days to come.
“I’m not worried about illness, but I am very excited for the social and psychological development,” said Brown.