With Montana schools preparing to open in the next few weeks, Governor Steve Bullock announced a new directive on Wednesday regarding the wearing of masks which took many school officials by surprise. The new Directive (which you can read by using the button below) extends, effective immediately, the mandatory use of face coverings to all public and private school settings in counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases, which would include Gallatin County.

The Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, fired off an immediate response, issuing the following statement:

“The Governor made a last-minute decision days before school begins and has once again left the Office of Public Instruction in the dark in his decision-making related to safely reopening schools. I have in multiple efforts asked for clarification and collaboration and the Governor continues to be vacant.

Today’s decision to amend his mask directive to include schools is a prime example of his poorly timed and isolated decision-making. I was notified via email by a staffer, from the Governor’s Office, nine minutes before his press conference today that he would be issuing a mask mandate in Montana schools. Surveys and conversations with parents, teachers, and communities have already occurred at the local level as school boards determined their school safety reopening plans. School districts and communities will now have to go back to the drawing board. The Governor’s lack of acknowledgment of state education experts is a disservice to Montana’s students, families, and educators.

In these uncertain times, there must be multiple voices, not just one voice, in protecting our students’ safety. I am truly disappointed in the Governor’s inability to engage in timely and collaborative discussions on one of the most important issues facing our state this fall. A winning combination for our Montana students is to show respect for and collaboration with school leaders and local communities in a timely manner.”

- Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen

So, what does that mean for kids going to school here in Gallatin County? The Gallatin City-County Health Department issued a Rule back on July 24th, saying that local schools could make the determination on students wearing masks in grades K-5. Does this change that to now include ALL students? The Governor's new Directive seemed vague on that point.

We have an email into our health board to get clarification on that, and will hopefully have an answer for your soon.