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Missoula County Public Schools moves to mask-optional policy following new CDC guidance

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Missoula County Public Schools will be moving to a mask-optional policy in all of its facilities beginning on Monday.

The change to the district’s mask policy comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided new guidance pertaining to face coverings on Friday afternoon.

“Those who wish to continue masking will be allowed to do so, but no students or staff will be required to wear a face covering at this time,” wrote MCPS in an email to the MCPS community, sent around 5 p.m. on Friday evening.

Based on the new CDC recommendations, those living and attending schools in areas with “low” or “medium” community spread of COVID no longer need to wear masks. Nearly 70% of the U.S. population reside in counties that do no have what is considered “high” community spread.

The CDC is still advising that those in areas of “high” spread continue wearing masks. The new recommendations do not change the face covering requirements on public transportation or indoors at airports, train stations and bus stations. Those who have COVID-like symptoms should continue wearing masks, regardless of where they reside.

The MCPS board previously adopted a set of data-driven triggers that would allow Superintendent Rob Watson to lift the district’s mask policy. However, those plans changed based on the new CDC guidance.

“We will continue to monitor the data, as well as continue with other COVID mitigation strategies, such as routine cleaning and targeted disinfection, maintaining ventilation and air filtration systems, prioritizing hand hygiene, testing and asking those with symptoms of illness to stay home,” the district wrote in the email to the MCPS community.

MCPS Trustee Grace Decker shared the news in a post to her Facebook page on Friday afternoon, noting that the board has always relied on public health experts and epidemiology to guide decision making during the pandemic.

“Today, we are doing the same,” Decker wrote.

The University of Montana announced it would be moving to a mask-recommended policy effective immediately in most public spaces. Classrooms and labs will follow suit on March 3. 

The district will continue to offer COVID testing and will provide at-home tests as needed. Those in the MCPS community who want to request a test through the district between Mondays and Fridays can call 406-240-4721.

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Kindergarten registration for MCPS opened on March 1. The district urges parents to register children who will be 5 years old on or before September 10, 2022, sooner rather than later to ensure a spot in their neighborhood school. 

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