BILLINGS, Mont. - With 12 days until the start of the new semester, Billings Public Schools hasn't made the final decision on whether or not masks will be optional.

"It's still our plan to hopefully lift the masking, but as we've learned in all of this, things change rapidly," Billings Superintendent Greg Upham said. "It's prudent to look at these next two weeks to see exactly what we're dealing with and go from there."

School started back up after the winter break on Monday, January 3, with students and staff wearing masks. If there is a change in mask policy, the superintendent said it will happen at the semester change on January 17.

"We've experienced mask fatigue," Upham said. "We've had the masks on for a year and a half now. But, at the same time, if this Omicron variant takes off like it has in other places, then we'll be prudent with our decision. If we have to hold with masking a little bit longer, then we'll do that.

Upham is meeting with Yellowstone County Health Officer Jon Felton and other superintendents in the county to review data on Wednesday, January 5. He said the most important thing is to keep schools open.

"You know, a lot it, Melanie, will depend on how fast this Omicron takes off," he said. "If it's out of control in the next week or so, it's a pretty simple decision. If it stays low in comparison to what we've seen before, then it makes it an easier decision to lift the masking. Obviously, we'll try to get that information out as soon as possible, but, at the same time, we just have to watch it."

"The most important thing is for us to stay in live instruction," he added. "We'll do what we need to do to stay in school."

News For You