MISSOULA — The Missoula County Public Schools’ mask mandate is set to expire next week and the District’s COVID-19 task force is expected to have a recommendation for what happens next.
But it’s a recommendation that is much more complicated than simply continuing the mask mandate or discontinuing the mask mandate.
During a Monday task force meeting, Missoula County health officials and the MCPS health team presented more data, as promised during their last meeting.
The numbers show less than ideal progress on the COVID-19 front. For example, last week, 284 students and staff were on quarantine. Jefferson Pre-School even closed due to a lack of staffing, and they’ll be shut down thru Friday.
But for those enforcing the mask mandate, it can be a challenging job on top of the responsibility they already have in the classroom.
MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson has given them three options -- all subject to minor adjustments -- as the group determines what they’ll recommend for mask-wearing moving forward.
"Majority of kids are really respectful about it, but you know, percentage-wise, I would say probably, you know, again, anecdotally 20-to-25% of students are not wearing masks how they should be, I guess you know up over nose and whatnot, so the amount of reminders is getting kind of tedious." - MCPS teacher Nick Shepherd
The options being weighed by the task force members range from eliminating the mask mandate for only high school students to eliminating the mandate once vaccines are available for the younger students.
However, each option to reduce the mask-wearing requires community and school COVID-19 trends to improve.
A Missoula judge recently denied a request from a group of parents to block face mask mandates for students in Missoula schools, saying the mandate doesn’t appear to violate any fundamental rights.
“Schools have a legitimate governmental interest in the safety of students, staff, and visitors,” Judge Jason Marks wrote in his ruling Friday. “The face-covering rule is rationally related to the safety of persons, many of whom are not eligible for vaccinations … (and) must congregate indoors for extended periods of time.”
MCPS COVID-19 information and policies can be viewed here.