Well, it is back to school time. Summer sure seemed shorter than usual this year. But, students have their fresh haircuts, new clothes and their backpack full of supplies. For some Billings students, they forgot to include their masks in their back to school list. The first day in school for students at Billings Public Schools was full of turmoil. The school district had originally planned to make masks optional for students for the school year. That soon changed after the superintendent noticed a spike in COVID cases, just prior to the beginning of the school year. These cases were not just residents of Yellowstone County, but also school aged kids. After one high school swim team member tested positive, the number soon spread to 10% of the team. This made the superintendent seriously reconsider issuing a mask mandate.

According to a letter to the Billings Public Schools community, Superintendent Greg Upham wrote:

Based on the reported COVID-19 infections in Yellowstone County, including the steadily rising number among school-aged children, the outbreak with our students, the fact our hospitals are at capacity, and that the Delta variant is highly infectious, I have concluded it is in our best interest to reimplement masking in our schools.

This mandate happened just 48 hours prior to the kick off of the school year. Sending parents into a panic. Anti-maskers gathered in a local park to protest the decision over the weekend. When the first day of school arrived, some parents chose to send there kids to school without complying with the mandate. The result was kids being turned away form entering the school, and high school students being removed from class.

Billings Public Schools Superintendent, Greg Upham says "I will continue to regularly communicate with our local health officials, and utilize the most recent Yellowstone  County COVID-19 metrics, as I constantly reassess the necessity of masking."

Thankfully, Missoula County Public Schools approved a mask mandate weeks ago, and not last minute. The current plan is to have all students wearing masks for at least the first six weeks of class. They say they will reevaluate the mandate after the six weeks is over.


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