Bozeman School District revises mask policy, hopes for more “normal” year

The Willson School building on Main Street.

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The Bozeman School District revised some of their Safe Return to School policies including their mask policy which encourages, not mandates, students 12 years old and younger to wear masks while masks are optional for all other students and staff.

Bozeman Public Schools Interim Superintendent Casey Bertram said the school board eliminated their May 18, 2020, state of emergency declaration of health and safety protocols, including the mask mandate for the 2021-2022 school year.

Bertram also said there will be no limits in classrooms or at sporting events citing the school district’s 2021-2022 COVID Advisory Task Force recommendations.

“Yeah same parameters for the school, we’re looking at you know not reducing the number of participants in our activities for fans, it’s going to appear and feel very much like a normal school year however if we see changes in COVID rates or other health things going on we’ll revisit that,” Bertram said.

According to the 2021-2022 COVID Advisory Task Force Recommendations, based upon the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, masks are strongly recommended for unvaccinated students, staff and community members.

The task force goes on to say, “Please respect an individual’s decision to wear a mask and avoid assumptions regarding an individual’s vaccination status.”

Bertram said cleaning and disinfecting procedures will continue to take place at each school and the school district will continue to work alongside the Gallatin City-County Health Department on reviewing the COVID-19 data and the school district’s metrics throughout the summer and into the school year.

The task force recommends that all schools begin the 2021-2022 school year in a five-day model with a small group of high school students participating in 100% remote learning via third party vendor provided instruction if they choose.

Students in K-8 also have the option of the Bozeman Online Charter School which provides core instruction delivered remotely.

Bertram said the last day of school, June 10, was the first day since the pandemic began where there wasn’t a student or staff member in quarantine, but recognized that COVID cases in Gallatin County will continue to fluctuate with community summer events and other outside factors.

It was noted by the task force that the current metrics/matrix lose statistical significance and meaning when community or grade band level transmission data falls below the CDC threshold for high transmission of 100 cases per 100,000 over seven days.

Bertram said they will add a new color, purple, to the dashboards to show that transmission is below the high-risk threshold and purple would signify that analysis related to the metrics/matrix is on pause due to low transmission rates.

The regular use of red, yellow and green would return in the metrics/matrix if community, grade-band, or school level data jumped above the CDC threshold for high transmission.

The most up-to-date information on Bozeman Public Schools can be found here.

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