Re: Masking Optional Monday June 26th

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Nathan Warner

Jun 20, 2021, 9:58:47 PM6/20/21
to Greg Upham, BEA President, Billings Public Schools Board of Trustees Email
Dear Mr. Upham, 

Thank you for this communication. The data you have provided and the data from the CDC does not seem to support the decision that you have announced. The link Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People that you provided includes the section depicted below:
Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 1.25.24 PM.png
If you click on the  Prevention measures link in this section, the following information is provided:

Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 1.26.51 PM.png
This information from the CDC clearly states that vaccinations and masking are still recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but in your communication you are stating that the decision to make masking optional is based on CDC guidance. Please clarify how CDC guidance is driving the decision making process in our school district in regard to COVID-19 safety measures.

 It is important to note that current data provided from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services shows that only 45% of eligible Montanans have been fully vaccinated. Please see the screenshot below taken today, 6/18/21, from
Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 1.31.13 PM.png

For Yellowstone County, this number is even lower at 43%. The image below comes from the same source referenced above.

Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 1.31.40 PM.png

Of course, none of the people vaccinated are under the age of 12, as no one in that age range is eligible to receive the vaccine yet. That means that virtually no students in grades K-5 are vaccinated. 

What is confusing me is that all of the italicized statistics and information you include in your communication apply only to fully vaccinated people. If everyone - or even a majority - of the people in our county or school district were vaccinated, the decision to make masking optional in schools would make much more sense. However, the data clearly shows that vaccinated people are a significant minority in our community, and there does not seem to be any indication that this is likely to change anytime in the near future. 

Please find below another image provided by the CDC, dated June 7, 2021 (which, incidentally, is after the May 28 date you reference in your communication).


This CDC graphic clearly shows that masks are recommended by the CDC in K-12 Schools WHEN YOU'RE FULLY VACCINATED. To reiterate what the data has shown, most people in Montana, even fewer in Yellowstone County, and even fewer kids, are NOT vaccinated. If I understand the new policy change correctly, masks in SD2 schools are now optional regardless of vaccination status. Is that correct? If so, that does not fall in line with any CDC guidance that I am aware of. If there is CDC data that suggests this course of action, please make it available. 

It is indeed relieving, as you mention, that "safe and effective vaccines are readily available." I can attest that in my family it is an incredible relief to have everyone fully vaccinated. Just because vaccines are readily available, however, obviously does not mean that most people are taking advantage of them. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case, and it is disappointing that in your communication you seem to stop short of recommending or encouraging that students, staff, and community members get vaccinated, as this is clearly the most effective route for everyone to return safely to school.

Again, the information and communication is appreciated. It is just very difficult to see how this decision has been justified based on the data provided. Please clarify if possible. If not, please be transparent about the actual reasons this decision was made. Thank you.

On Fri, Jun 18, 2021 at 6:22 AM Greg Upham <> wrote:


Please see the communique regarding modifications to our masking protocols.  I hope you are enjoying the summer sun and relaxing.

Take care,


Re Masking in Billings Public Schools




Effective 8 a.m. on Monday, June 21, 2021, Billings Public Schools will no longer require masking for staff and students, except as provided for below (school busses).  Students and staff may, of course, continue to wear masks if they so wish.  This modification applies to all Billings Public School facilities and to summer educational programs currently in session and or scheduled for a later date.


This change of masking requirements is based on advice and direction given to us by the CDC.  We are all relieved that safe and effective vaccinations are readily available.  Recently, the CDC updated its guidelines for those of us who are fully vaccinated.  One of the changes is that the CDC is no longer recommending that everyone wear masks.  Please see the CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People  dated May 28, 2021, for more information.

If CDC guidelines change because of an upsurge of infections, I will take appropriate measures, and I will continue to monitor very closely the information provided by state and local health authorities in Montana.

Please be advised,

Superintendent Upham


Key Points from the CDC

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings. For related information for healthcare settings, visit Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination.

Fully vaccinated people can:

·         Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance

·         Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel

·         Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States

·         Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings

·         Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic

·         Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

·         Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

·         Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

* * *

Guiding Principles for Fully Vaccinated People

·         Indoor and outdoor activities pose minimal risk to fully vaccinated people.

·         Fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people.

·         Fully vaccinated people should still get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

·         Fully vaccinated people should not visit private or public settings if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

·         Fully vaccinated people should continue to follow any applicable federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

For the purposes of CDC guidance, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen); there is currently no post-vaccination time limit on fully vaccinated status. Unvaccinated people refers to individuals of all ages, including children, that have not completed a vaccination series or received a single-dose vaccine.


From the CDC:


Are masks required on school buses?

Yes, passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC’s Order. Operators of school buses should refer to the Department of Education’s COVID-19 Handbook pdf icon[PDF – 27 pages]external icon for additional guidance.

A driver does not need to wear a mask if they are the only person on the bus.

Greg Upham
Billings Public Schools
415 N. 30th St.
Billings, MT  59101

"You cannot change what you do not measure."   -Dr. Amen

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Nate Warner
6th Grade Social Studies/8th Grade U.S. History

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