MISSOULA — It is back to school for students and as they file back into the classroom after the holidays, there are some new COVID-19 protocols in place. And as we reign on the New Year, schools are preparing for the newest wave of COVID-19.
“So we notified our families on Friday that they would have to continue to wear masks in schools today," said Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Rob Watson. "And we'll continue to do that until the county incinerate comes down.”
On the first day back to school, Waston, said they expected to have somewhere between 10-to-15 COVID-19 cases in the district. But what he found more surprising was the number of test requests.
“And on a typical day, you know, maybe we give half a dozen or a dozen tests, but so far today we've had more than 40 people request tests,” Watson told MTN News.
Watson said that is another protocol that has been changed since the district follows CDC guidelines.
Hamilton Schools Communications Director Justine Stewart said the newest COVID-19 update is that there is no mask requirement for any grade level.
“As of today, we are no longer requiring any masking at the district," said Stewart. "Of course, if individuals still wish to wear a mask, it is their personal choice.”
At the start of the year, kindergarten through fifth grade students were asked to wear a mask in halls and assemblies.
Because it is not mandatory to report COVID-19 cases, the school has stopped keeping track of case numbers.
One of the main reasons why the district decided to not enforce masking is because of vaccine availability.
“The vaccine is available for five and up now," Stewart told MTN News. "So our thought process is that you know, for those who choose to be vaccinated and be protected, that's great. So we should be able to back off on that masking because the vaccines are readily available if they so choose to have their children vaccinated.”
Stewart said this is something the community wanted, "our numbers were low as far as absences and everyone seemed to be pretty healthy. And our community really wanted this at least the majority of them.”
Both school districts say they will keep evaluating the COVID-19 situation and update protocols if needed.