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Masks optional in Laurel schools

Laurel School Board meeting.jpg
Posted at 10:35 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 14:24:38-05

Teachers and parents are speaking out on both sides of the debate over facemasks in Laurel Schools.

Some expressed concern that the board made a change from mandatory masks for COVID-19.

But the board says masks have always been optional.

The union argued that the board previously agreed to masks under state guidelines, but the chair and the superintendent say those guidelines changed with Gov. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.

"The reason that we're here tonight, the crux of the issue is really that between the (Memorandum Of Agreement), our board policy and our reopening plan," said Linda Filpula. "We have some inconsistent language in there.

"And when those recommendations, all begin with universal mask use, I don't see how, how you can honor our agreement, and your policy at the same time," said Brent Scott, Laurel Unified Education Association co-president.

"One of the reasons we've been successful with an entire semester, and a half quarter is because we've worn the mask," said Aloma Jess, teacher.

"The mental health toll on our kids is huge," said Rene Roth, parent. "Suicides rates have gone up. To be able to see someone's face, see their emotions, is a big deal. And the numbers in our schools do not support masking our kids."

"We need to show grace, and I'm going to extend that word again," said Brittany Hunter, school board trustee. "We need to show grace amongst each other."

"I don't think, those who say we don't care, know any of us at all," said Dak Fike, school board trustee. "And it makes me sad when I hear that we don't care."

"The school board has not changed anything recently," said Karen Teeters, school board chair. "Our school has always had an option on the mask wearing."

Scott states that the not requiring masks goes against the agreement.

During the public comment period, he said the union will file a grievance against the board and an unfair labor practice complaint.

A recording of the meeting is available on the Laurel School District Facebook page.