KALISPELL -- Before Gov. Steve Bullock's announcement on Wednesday requiring masks in schools, the Kalispell School Board approved a recommendation from Superintendent Micah Hill requiring face coverings for all students participating in in-person schooling Tuesday night.
A number of school district employees and concerned families spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting with the overwhelming majority of public comment in favor of the masks ordinance.
“I think if we give students expectations that they have to wear a mask, they will meet those expectations,” said Kalispell School District employee Patrick McElwain.
The approved action requires Kalispell students pre-K and K-12 to wear masks for in-person learning when physical distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. Face coverings will be required for all students and staff when inside buildings and on buses.
Concerned resident Chau Young wants to see the mandate strongly enforced across all schools in the district.
“There should be no wiggle room, when mandatory is mandatory, when a requirement is required, let’s make it clear,” said Young.
Hill says mandatory face coverings are important in making sure in-person learning runs smooth when doors open on August 31.
“I think it gives us the best opportunity to open and remain open at this point,” said Hill.
Glacier High School teacher Stephanie Nadasi says teachers, students and families all need to work together for in-person learning to be successful this fall.
“We have to social distance, we have to wash our hands and we have to wear a mask, and they’re not mutually exclusive, you have to do all of them to actually stop this, so if we get to school and want to stay in school we really need to do all those things,” said Nadasi.
Hill says schools will provide face coverings for staff and students who do not have one. Families in the school district were given the choice to opt-out for remote learning by August 7.
Remote instruction begins on September 8.