Several members of the public attended the Great Falls Public School Board meeting on November 22 and asked them to comment on the board’s policy regarding health protocols for COVID, particularly masks.
The board voted at its Nov. 8 meeting to revise the policy, removing specific case rates and positivity rates and giving the superintendent an opportunity to consult with an advisory group of school and health officials, among others, to determine when masks and other health care protocols are needed based on school and community COVID rates.
The GFPS lifts the mask requirement for middle and high schools on November 15
After the council approved the policy, the district removed the mask requirement for middle and high school students, but maintained the mask requirement for elementary schools.
About half a dozen people have called on the council to reconsider the mask policy to remove masks entirely from schools. More people attended, apparently to support those calling for masks to be removed from schools and the district opened the overflow room for the meeting.
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Julie Bass, a local licensed clinical counselor, said she worked primarily with adults, but saw parents bring their children during COVID.
“We put the children in a mask that creates anxiety,” she said.
She said she saw the children’s behavior change with disenchantment and no longer wanting to go to school.
Bass said the masks hide people’s ability to speak and communicate and asked the board to “let these children be free.”
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Noelle Johnson, a former GFPS teacher, asked the council to end the declared emergency saying it was no longer necessary.
Many other major school districts in the state have also maintained a declared state of emergency and have some form of mask requirements, including Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Missoula.
Katrina lewis, a local anesthesiologist, said COVID is not a pandemic, masks are not effective, and few children have died from COVID.
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According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 214 children aged 0 to 4 and 498 children aged 5 to 18 died from COVID from January 2020 to November 13, 2021.
Lewis said she was from groups such as the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, which has advocated for the use of ivermectin as a treatment; and groups that include Peter McCullough, who was fired from Baylor University this year for spreading misinformation about COVID.
The board took no action to revise its current COVID health protocol policy during the meeting.
During the meeting, Superintendent Tom Moore said cases in the district tended to go down and as of November 22 there were 19 active cases in the district.
He said the employee absence rate due to COVID has fluctuated, but the infection rate among teachers has declined.
Moore said they were looking for a COVID positivity rate of less than 10% to lower health protocols.
Last week’s positivity rate for the county was 11.4%, up from 13.1% the week before, but these are still considered high, according to the county city-county health department. of Cascade.
Moore said the district held two COVID vaccination clinics for children aged 5 to 11 in November, and between them, about 750 children have been vaccinated and about 135 have also been vaccinated against the flu. Two more clinics are planned for December.