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Parents respond to continuing mask requirement in Billings Public Schools

McKinley Elementary.jpg
Posted at 10:13 AM, Jan 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-15 13:40:53-05

Billings students will have to wear masks for the foreseeable future after Superintendent Greg Upham extended the mask mandate on Thursday.

Parents responded to the news Friday while waiting to pick up kids after school.

"You know, I would love to see them go away but it's not that big a deal," said Kara Eaton, parent of a student at McKinley Elementary School. "If it's gonna help the kids I'd rather they just keep them on."

In Upham's letter to parents, he cited a spike in cases because of the omicron variant and a rapid spike in COVID cases in schools. Most parents
who spoke to Q2 Friday understood the decision.

"I think it's a good idea," said Lamondras Davenport, also a parent of a child at McKinley. "You know, keep the kids safe, give them a little more responsibility to keep up with their masks. Be responsible."

"Yea, it's there for the children because they're the next generation," said Robert Rides Horse, an uncle to children attending McKinley. "Keep them safe and sound."

"I believe that it probably should come back," said Matthew Hernandez, also an uncle to students at McKinley. "I think that it's a lot safer. I think with this new strain that's going around."

All the parents who spoke with Q2 Friday favored keeping the mask mandate in place,

"We are 100% on board with it," said Jenni Aleksich. "We don't want people getting sick. We have very vulnerable people in our household."

"I think it's good," said Jonathan Big Lake, another parent with a child at McKinley. "At least some prevent spreading the virus and stuff."

But the decision is disappointing for Luke Hudson.

He started the group Make Masking Optional - Billings Public Schools. He says his group is not anti-mask but is anti-mandate.

"When we go to events even at Billings Public Schools, where masking is optional after hours, we'll see maybe 10% or less are masked and everyone else is unmasked," Hudson said. "And what that tells me is that these people in this community are ready to say it should be a personal choice. We should stop the mandates and let people make decisions about what mitigation strategies they want to use."

Hudson argues that statistics also show masks haven't necessarily been effective in schools, citing numbers that show a 4.3% positivity rate in schools. where masked are required compared to 3.4% rates in non med schools in Yellowstone County.

But health officials tell MTN the numbers are hard to compare with so many more students attending schools that require masks.