Billings School District 2 will continue with its mask mandate, citing the “swift pace of the omicron variant moving in our community,” Superintendent Greg Upham wrote in a Thursday letter to parents and guardians in the district.
The district had hoped to allow masks to be optional for teachers on Monday and students by Tuesday.
“It was with great anticipation that we were poised to welcome optional masking,” Upham said. “But, the trajectory of the current cases requires us to remain vigilant as we work through this wave.”
Upham said officials monitor case numbers in the district weekly, and meet regularly for guidance from local health officials. “No single metric determines masking or no masking,” he said.
Other districts in the state, including Great Falls and Bozeman, have moved instruction online as escalating COVID-19 cases have left students sick and schools short-staffed.
“We are doing everything we can in order not to be placed in a remote learning environment,” Upham wrote.
Billings Public Schools has reported that at least 121 students and 40 staff members are newly infected with COVID-19.
The data comes from reports made between Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, and rises sharply from five students and five staff members reported in the week beginning Dec. 19 leading up to the holiday break.