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Masks not required at Laurel Public Schools

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Masks won't be required on school buses in Billings starting Wednesday

Billings, Montana – Laurel Public Schools began classes on Wednesday, with masks considered optional by the school board.

“You know, our school board has made that more of an optional thing but recommended and so we’ve kind of seen both. Some students and staff wear masks, and some don’t, and really what we’ve found is that people are pretty respectful and pretty polite about either opinion and it really hasn’t been an issue. So that’s been a nice thing for this year,” the head of the science department at Laurel High School, Jayme Bennington said.

Laurel Public Schools is helping to keep their children and employees safe through sanitation policies, a block schedule to limit travel between classrooms, and mask mandates on the bus.

One significant difference from last year is that Laurel Public School employees are no longer “deputized” to do contact tracing through RiverStone Health.

“What that basically meant is when we suspected or were made aware of a positive COVID case then we had to then go to classrooms, look for those close contacts. Sometimes that involved measurements, that involved getting seating charts out, that involved numerous phone calls to parents and then follow up phone calls to parents. Again, that was anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a week of extra work for all administrators in our county,” the Laurel High School principal, Shawnda Zahara-Harris said.

RiverStone Health has stepped in to do contact tracing instead of administrators, which Zahara-Harris says is a huge stress lifted off administrators.

Laurel Public Schools says that have not had any COVID-19 related incidents yet but will continue to monitor the situation during their weekly meetings.

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