Bullock issues school mask directive
August 19, 2020
Students in both public and private schools will be required to wear masks at the start of the upcoming school year.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a Directive last Wednesday that is applicable to counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases. Jefferson County currently has five active cases.
At the time of the announcement, the Whitehall School District did not have a mandatory mask policy for the 2020-21 school year.
On July 15, Bullock announced a directive that required the mandatory use of masks for all residents in counties with four or more cases.
At a meeting last week, Superintendent Hannah Nieskens said on August 11 they had 40 kids signed up for their distance learning program. She reported the number was up to 55 the day the mask directive was issued, and she expects that number to only get larger. She encouraged parents to please let the district know their decision for the school year. The three choices for students in Whitehall include onsite instruction, online instruction, and a hybrid model of both.
"As discussed in the July 15 Directive, research suggests that universal use of face coverings in enclosed public spaces would substantially reduce the spread of COVID-19. By their nature, schools place students, teachers, and staff together in an enclosed space for prolonged periods of time-conditions which are inherently conducive to COVID-19 transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended August 12, 2020, that schools across the country include the use of face coverings in their reopening plans," Bullock said. "Based on these considerations and mounting case numbers among the nation's youth, many states have decided to mandate or strongly encourage the use of face coverings in schools. COVID-19 presents Montanans with a once-in-a-century pandemic. More than 5.1 million Americans have been infected, and more than 165,000 have died. At the time of this Directive, active cases in Montana have risen to more than 1,400. The spread of COVID-19 endangers vulnerable Montanans, businesses who want to keep their doors open, and hospitals who need the capacity to treat both COVID-19 patients and all others needing medical care."
Bullock went on to state in the directive that access to school is essential to the developmental, social, mental, and educational needs of school-age children.
"As fall approaches, schools are working hard to plan for the upcoming school year in light of the ongoing pandemic. Given the acute risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools, it is vital that their plans include mandatory face coverings in counties with four or more active cases," he said.
All provisions set forth in the July 15 Directive apply to public and private K-12 schools.
*Indoor school spaces are considered indoor spaces open to the public.
*School-related outdoor activities are considered organized outdoor activities.
•All provisions of the July 15 Directive remain in effect except as expressly amended by this Directive.