HELENA — Helena Public Schools (HPS) announced Friday afternoon that it is ending its current mask mandate for all grades beginning Monday, Feb. 14 and will move to a “mask recommended” status for all grade levels.
“All indicators suggest that we have seen the peak of this latest surge, which appears to be moving out as quickly as it swept in,” wrote District Superintendent Rex Weltz in a letter to parents.
The district reinstated its mask mandate on January 24 a little more than two weeks after it ended its initial mask mandate following when students returned after winter break.
At the time, HPS cited increased absences and rising case numbers related to the omicron variant as their reason for requiring masks again. The district also expanded masking to high school students who previously had the choice of wearing a mask due to the availability of the vaccine in that age group.
District Superintendent Rex Weltz told MTN on Friday that the decision to go to “mask recommended” was based on the falling number of Covid cases, both community-wide and among students and staff.
“As before, we will continue to respect family choice around masking. High-quality masks will continue to be provided free-of-charge, and school nurses are available to perform correct mask fittings for students and staff. We will continue to report district case numbers as well as absentee rates on the district website, so parents can stay apprised of health conditions,” noted Weltz in his letter.
Weltz also thanked the community for their flexibility and support while the district addressed COVID’s challenges.
“We expected a near-normal return to school last fall, but COVID had other plans for us. As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, I’m optimistic that the relief we’ve been waiting for is in front of us.”