MISSOULA — Missoula County Public School (MCPS) administrators say the new "mask mandate" guidance from the state won't change the district's policies, since parents are already being given the option of remote learning.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) issued the "emergency ruling" Tuesday advising school districts to accommodate parental choice when it comes to students wearing masks this fall.
But in a statement released to MTN News, MCPS says it's reading the rule as "permissive" by saying school districts "should consider" parental concerns and "should provide" an opt-out system for certain reasons.
MCPS notes the district "received hours of public comment" in recent weeks, "demonstrating a clear desire to take the wishes of parents into account" as trustees decided to require masks. The district goes on to say "the School District provides parents and students the ability to opt-out of wearing a mask. However, should they opt-out they are opting into learning off campus or virtual learning."
The district says principals will assist parents who want to opt out for virtual learning and will help with accommodations for students who claim a medical exemption to wearing masks. Otherwise, MCPS "will continue to enforce its face-covering guidelines to ensure the safety and welfare of all students and staff."
MCPS had previously said it plans to review the face mask policy in six weeks as it develops more data about COVID-19 case spread within the schools.
"The School District provides parents and students the ability to opt-out of wearing a mask. However, should they opt out, they are opting into learning off-campus or virtual learning. The School District is prepared to provide assistance to parents looking to exercise that option."