GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Public Schools hosted a public meeting on Thursday evening to hear from the community before deciding on a mask policy for the upcoming school year.
Trustees heard from many speakers, both virtually and in person, who advocated for and against requiring masks to be worn in schools.
- "These masks are a false sense of security. They do nothing for us but dehumanize us and serve as a constant reminder to live in fear. I don't want my kids to live in fear,” one woman said.
- "For people out there that don't necessarily want their kids to wear masks, to me it feels a bit selfish. A mask doesn't limit a person's freedom or contribute to some other illness,” a man said.
- "I also call out the teachers and faculty. Do not be complicit. If you agree with this, you are part of the problem okay? You have more power than you realize,” said one man.
The overwhelming majority of speakers, for various reasons, were opposed to any kind of mask requirement.
Prior to speakers being heard, Superintendent Tom Moore outlined the proposed updates to the district's COVID policy.
According to the policy, at the beginning of the school year, if the number of active COVID cases in Cascade County is considered substantial or high as defined by the CDC, the school board will direct the superintendent to require masks to be worn by anyone any time they're in a district building.
According to the latest data from the Cascade City County Health Department, as of August 18, the number of active cases does meet the "substantial" threshold.
After public comments, the trustees shared their thoughts and thanked everyone who weighed in, and then voted six to one to approve the proposed policy.
Here are links to articles about how other large school districts in Montana are addressing the issue:
- Helena schools will require masks for pre-K to 8th-graders
- Butte schools will require masks for first 4 weeks
- Bozeman schools mask mandate still debated
- Still no final word on masks in Billings schools
- Missoula schools will require masks to start the school year
The GFPS meeting was streamed live on Facebook; click here to watch the video.