There's no two ways about this: We fully support Billings School District 2 in its requirement that students be masked.
In a letter to parents sent Saturday, Superintendent Greg Upham announced a change from "masks optional but encouraged" to "masks required." He mentioned a recent outbreak on a Billings Skyview sports team, and "the steadily rising number (of cases) among school-aged children" as reasons that he has "concluded it is in our best interest to re-implement masking in our schools. This is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our schools open."
Yes, it is necessary.
Upham was wise to react in a timely manner to a recent surge in infections, particularly just as school was starting this week.
His decision was not about "control." It was about the welfare of our children.
Trust the knowledge of our doctors and scientists. Disease specialists from the Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and St. John's United all spoke out in favor of the district's move.
This is not a conspiracy. It's a pandemic.
If you are not vaccinated, we urge you to get vaccinated immediately. Yellowstone County is still lagging behind the state vaccination rate, and the state isn't exactly setting any records. Montana is at 50 percent of eligible citizens fully vaccinated; Yellowstone County is at 48.
We also urge you to support the school district's policies. The district has our students' health and welfare at heart. It is doing the right thing, and deserves our support and gratitude.