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Mask policy foes spur Butte school board adjournment
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Mask policy foes spur Butte school board adjournment

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The meeting ended before it began.

People opposed to the Butte School District’s COVID-19 mask policy refused to wear masks during Monday evening’s meeting of the district’s school board at East Middle School. Their unyielding resistance led board Chairwoman Ann Boston to adjourn the meeting.

“We had asked the people in the audience who were not wearing masks to put masks on and offered to provide them,” Boston said.

She said the mask opponents probably totaled 15 to 20 people. Some had signs protesting the district’s mask policy, she said.

Monday evening’s agenda had scheduled a review of the district’s policy, first adopted in mid-August, that mandates masks for teachers, students and staff. At the time of the policy’s adoption, the school board voted to review it after the first four weeks of school, which started Aug. 30.

Boston said the school board’s discussion about the mask policy will occur Thursday during a virtual meeting using the Microsoft Teams platform. She said some of the people opposing the mandate have already signed up to speak. Others who wish to chime in will need to contact Marci Sheehan at the district in advance, Boston said.  

She said she felt frustrated by the behavior of the opponents.

Boston noted school board members are volunteers and that Monday evening’s resistance ended up making the meeting a waste of time.

Rose Griner was among the mask mandate opponents at the meeting. She has four children in the Butte School District.

“All we’ve been trying to ask for is parents’ choice,” she said. “I feel like the masks are actually making them [the students] more sick.”

She said she respects people who choose to wear masks and respects those who elect not to. Mask mandates are unconstitutional, she said.

“It’s taking away our rights, more and more,” Griner said. “The majority of [students] are healthy. The majority of them are fine.”

She acknowledged her children did not like virtual learning tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a little tough. My kids had a bit of a hard time. My kids are social,” Griner said.

School Superintendent Judy Jonart said the school district hopes the mask policy will help retain in-school learning for students.

She is prepared to recommend to the school board Thursday that the current mask mandate continue another month.

Jonart said close communication with the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department confirms that continuing the policy is a prudent approach to keeping students safe, healthy and in school.

Guidelines for grades K-12 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised: “Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

The rescheduled regular meeting of the school board for the Butte School District will be Thursday at 5 p.m. The virtual teleconference will be held via Microsoft Teams.

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