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Superintendent: Masks 'optional' for all Billings students as classes resume Monday

Superintendent Greg Upham says District will monitor case counts
Posted at 12:53 PM, Aug 19, 2021

Billings - Just one day after the Billings Education Association delivered a big “no” to a mask mandate for teachers and other staff, School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Thursday, masks will also be optional for all students, as classes resume Monday.

Upham made that announcement during his live 12:30 p.m. Facebook question and answer session.

He said Yellowstone County will be contact tracing cases and the district will monitor those case counts.

This decision comes amid widely conflicting opinions across the community, as parents on both sides don’t hold back and air their beliefs, and the medical community pleads with residents to please get vaccinated and mask up.

The state confirmed another 499 cases Thursday, pushing the number of active Covid-19 cases across Montana to 3,269.

Yellowstone County added another 48 cases Thursday, bringing the county total to 421 active cases, the third-highest in the state.

Flathead County has the most at 681 active cases, followed by Cascade County at 600.

On Wednesday, Upham approached the Billings Education Association president wanting to implement a mask mandate for all staff at the K-8 level.

The Education Association denied that request, opting to stick with the current agreement that makes masking optional for employees.

The union "highly encouraged" teachers and other employees in classrooms with unvaccinated children to wear masks.

Vaccine doses are not available to children ages 12 and younger, according to CDC guidelines.

According to the agreement, the district must provide face masks or shield for all employees who want them and prevent harassment or bullying of those who choose to wear them.