The Billings school district will keep its policy of mandating masks in school buildings, Superintendent Greg Upham told Q2 News Tuesday afternoon.
Upham's statement came in response to a new policy announced hours earlier by the Gianforte administration, urging school districts in Montana to allow parents to determine if their children wear masks in school.
Upham told Q2 News that the district reviewed the order from the governor with its attorneys and determined it is a permissive rule, not a mandatory one.
"We will stay the course with our policy of mandated masks," he said, adding, "We feel it is the safest for our students and staff, and community as a whole."
Upham announced the mask mandate for Billings the weekend before school started, citing a COVID-19 outbreak among the Billings Skyview football team.
Read a memo sent by Upham below:
RE: Memo in Response to Department of Public Health and Human Services Masking Statement
Billings Public Schools has reviewed the rule issued today by the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the District reads the rule as permissive, not mandatory, as it specifically provides that school districts “should consider” parental concerns and “should provide” an opt-out system for certain reasons. The District will continue to enforce its face covering guidelines to ensure the safety and welfare of all students and staff. The District has received hours of public comment from parents and others in the community on this issue, demonstrating its clear desire to take the wishes of parents into account. Furthermore, the District provides parents and students the ability to opt-out of wearing a mask. However, should they opt out, for any reason, including health related reasons, they are opting into virtual learning. The School District is prepared to provide assistance to parents looking to exercise that option. The deadline for enrolling into virtual learning remains as Friday, September 3, 2021. Please contact Randy Russell or Brenda Koch at the District office for more information about virtual learning.
For additional COVID-19 information, please visit the school district website.