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Gazette opinion: Public entitled to know of COVID cases in schools of all levels

Gazette opinion: Public entitled to know of COVID cases in schools of all levels

covid classroom illustration

Gov. Steve Bullock said last week that the public has a right to know about COVID-19 cases in schools.

He's absolutely right.

We find it unfortunate that Billings Public Schools does not agree, and we'd urge Superintendent Greg Upham to reconsider District 2's policy of not releasing this basic information. It's not a close call. Parents have every right to know what's happening within the schools, and make informed decisions about sending their children to classes.

But we'd also suggest that Gov. Bullock apply the same philosophy to the state university system. We'd ask him to urge Commissioner Clayton Christian —  himself a COVID survivor — that a systemwide approach to such notification should be established.

COVID-19 cases on campuses are being reported — and not reported — in widely varying fashion across the state, depending on the positions of individual county health officers and individual university administrations.

We understand the difference between schoolchildren and adults. But we'd offer that fellow students — and the parents who are often making the financial commitments to enable students' enrollment — deserve to know when there are positive cases at any university in the Montana system.

There is no need for these disclosures to compromise anyone's privacy. The specifics of who has tested positive are not important. But the fact that within the campus community, someone has — or several someones have — tested positive is information the community at large is entitled to know. 

Meanwhile, we look forward to Upham making a graceful and rapid pivot toward transparency.


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