Three Billings public school staff members suspended for refusing to wear masks

Posted at 4:47 PM, Aug 24, 2021

BILLINGS — Three Billings School District 2 staff members were placed on a five-day suspension after refusing to wear a mask while in a school building on the first day of school, Superintendent Greg Upham said on Tuesday.

“Obviously a personnel issue, but I’m comfortable disclosing that we have three staff members that have chosen not to mask. So we’ll work through the process with them," Upham said.

Upham said the three suspended staff members will work with the district's human resources department, then be given progressive discipline if they continue to not wear a mask.

"They have the opportunity to meet with our HR director and walk through the issues at hand with the directive, the five-day suspension and it’s progressive discipline after that. They’ll just work with our HR department," Upham said.

Monday was the district's first day back in classes with masks required for staff and students. On the first day, a Boulder Elementary School student was turned away from the building and offered a remote learning option for refusing to wear a mask.

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Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham gives an interview with MTN News about an hour before the bell rings to let out the first day of classes in 2021 at Will James Middle School.

New COVID-19 cases popped up in Billings schools on Tuesday, Upham said. Two new cases were identified in staff members and two new cases were found on the Skyview High School volleyball team.

Last week, an outbreak in six Skyview varsity football players caused Upham to implement the mask mandate just two days before school started.

“It was very wise for us to start the year with masks, because I would assume there would be students and staff that came in with the COVID virus. I think we did the best precautionary measure we could have," Upham said.

On the whole, Upham said masks weren't much of a problem on the second day back at school.

“Everyone is super excited. I was at Senior this morning and the students were... just super excited to be in school and very respectful, very compliant with the masks. They just went right into school and went to work. Reports from our other middle schools and high schools has been absolutely outstanding. I compliment our staff and students and parents and I really appreciate the cooperation," Upham said.

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