HELENA — The Helena School Board of Trustees approved new COVID-19 rules for the Helena School District at their meeting Tuesday evening.
Beginning July 1 masking will be optional on school property, although they will still be recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID. Only one trustee, Janet Armstrong, voted against the change.
Parents at the virtual meeting had mixed reactions to the policy shift, with some noting that COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available for students under the age of 12.
The school board also extended their emergency declaration through June 2022, with the intent to allow for flexibility to quickly adapt policies and funding where necessary.
Incoming Superintendent Rex Weltz presented a COVID protocol draft plan for the next school year. He made a point at the beginning of his presentation to thank all the administration and school staff for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic the past year, while also noting his plan should not be seen as a criticism of what had previously been implemented.
The new plan has masking optional for all grades, but again recommends the use in close quarters. Transportation and school times will return to normal. Classrooms will return to pre-pandemic setups that emphasize collaboration. Extracurricular activities are also expected to return to near-normal schedules and operations.
Pandemic style cleaning and hygiene will continue, such as an emphasis on washing hands and frequently cleaning high contact surfaces. The school district will also continue contact tracing when COVID cased emerge.
Weltz noted it is a draft plan subject to change and welcomes feedback from the community and the board. He also noted that he believes the next school year will be a lot more normal and brighter for families.