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School Districts Put In Place Mask Mandates Amid Rising COVID Cases

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On Wednesday, the Helena schooldistrict Superintendent announced a mask mandate for Pre-K-8 students. The decision came as rising COVID cases put Lewis and Clark county and most Montana counties in the CDC’s high transmission category.

Karen Ogden, Communications Officer with Helena Public Schools, told YPR that masking for grades 9-12 is strongly recommended, but not mandatory. However, the district is requiring masking for Pre K-8th grade students.

“The vast majority of those students are too young to get the vaccination at least right now,” Ogden says.

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal masking indoors for students in all grade levels.

Bozeman approved a mask mandate this week for all students in the district. Interim Superintendent Casey Bertram spoke during a recent school board meeting.

“What is my rationale for bringing this recommendation? First It’s to keep students in school 5 days a week - we are to be honest super excited about having kids in our building 5 days a week,” Bertram says.

The school year in Billings is already underway with a mask mandate despite protests from parents and a teachers union. The AP reported that some students have refused to wear masks, and as a result, did not receive in person instruction.

Several other counties have also put in place mask mandates in recent weeks.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.