BILLINGS — A Billings mother is sounding an alarm on School District 2’s mask mandate after grabbing pictures of school staff at Boulder Elementary not wearing masks inside the school.
Now, she’s asking district administrators to take a closer look at the policy.
Sarah Barnes has four children who attend Billings schools and says this week she was visiting during lunchtime at Boulder when she noticed the mask issue.
She says when she walks into the school, she follows the mask rule.
“As soon as I went into the school, they asked me to put on a mask, and I did,” said Barnes.
But as she was inside, she noticed cafeteria workers and a couple of aides who were not wearing masks.
So, she asked the workers about wearing masks.
“They put on a mask, but not appropriately,” said Barnes “So I know that they don't care about the mask mandate.”
Barnes is not in favor of SD2’s mask mandate, which was put into place before the school year started by Superintendent Greg Upham following an outbreak at Billings Skyview and rising COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County.
She said it's something she feels parents should have had a say in.
“I feel like as parents we should have the right to make that decision for our families, and if they're not going to want to wear their masks, I don't think our kids should be forced to wear masks either,” she said.
MTN News reached out to Upham, who said the photos are concerning. He says the incident prompted him to send out a memo to all building administrators, reinforcing the need to remain consistent when it comes to the mask policy.
In the photos taken by Barnes, two of the food services workers in question work for a contracted company called Sodexo. MTN News asked if they had to follow the same policy as SD2 staff, and Upham said they do. Sodexo has its own mask policy in place, he said.
He says in addition, the other two staff members shown in the photos are employed by the district and should be masked up.
Upham says he’s been out to plenty of schools and has been pleased to see the commitment to masks by students and staff. He also says he appreciates Barnes coming forward.
But for him, he believes all staff will do the right thing.
But Barnes is unsure staff really cares about the policy because she said when she came back to the school a second time this week, again the staff were not wearing masks.
“We came back today for a different grade and walked in and the lunch ladies who are preparing all the food still didn't have masks on,” said Barnes.
Barnes is hoping this incident will help Upham to see that there are differing opinions surrounding the mask mandate and perhaps the board will see that.
When asked if Upham would uphold the mandate, he said yes, reiterating that it’s important all workers in Billings schools wear masks.