Parents Come Armed With Data to Missoula Public Schools “COVID Task Force” Reopening Meeting

Parents stand for public comment during Missoula County Public Schools "COVID Task Force" meeting.
Parents stand for public comment during Missoula County Public Schools "COVID Task Force" meeting.

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UPDATE (Aug 4th @ 10:30pm): Superintendent Rob Watson distributed a draft letter meant for parents to teachers and staff outlining mask mandates for the 2021-2022 school year.

UPDATE (Aug 4th @ 1:20pm): Superintendent Rob Watson sent an email to Board of Trustees this morning saying that the next COVID-19 meeting would be Zoom-only citing specious reasoning.

Yesterday afternoon, about 60 parents, grandparents, students, community members, and front-line workers attended the Missoula County Public Schools “COVID Task Force” meeting held at the MCPS administration building on South Avenue. The topic of discussion was a re-opening plan for the 2021-2022 school year for Missoula County government-ran schools. Much of the meeting was spent discussing mask mandates for Missoula students, staff, and government-paid educators.

All members of the task force were masked up while only a handful of the 60 or so parents, students, and children in attendance wore a mask.

In a rare moment of honesty from the Missoula City-County Health Department, Health Director D’Shane Barnett admitted to the committee members that a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2 does not necessarily indicate a clinical infection of COVID-19 and that a positive test result does not necessarily mean that someone is sick. Barnett noted that SARS-CoV-2 would be with us into the future and suggested we need to learn how to live with it.

This is a major point of fact that the health department has obscured from the public in order to pump up hysteria and fear and induce compliance of their illegal mask mandates and coercion of the public to take the experimental COVID-19 injection. Cheers rang out from the crowd after Barnett’s admission.

Superintendent Rob Watson led the meeting, claiming to seek feedback from task-force members on adopting a mask mandate or a mask recommendation for the upcoming school year. Unironically, Watson passed around note cards and a cup filled with pens to masked committee members to gather their opinions on implementation of a district-wide mask mandate. Committee members could be seen dipping into the cup and passing the cup around to share with other committee members.

Watson told the committee he wanted to open the school to in-person instruction while keeping remote-learning as an option for families. “One of the things that we found out over the course of the year is that transmission in school was pretty low, we also know that transmission on surfaces was also low,” Watson said.

Superintendent Watson shared five potential scenarios with the committee where students would either be required or recommended to wear masks or a mix of both depending on the students grade.

1.Required for all pre-K-12
2.Required pre-K-8Recommended 9-12
3.Required pre-K-6Recommended 7-12
4.Required pre-K-5Recommended 6-12
5.Recommended pre-K-12
MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson mask policy scenarios

Watson asked committee members to first imagine “the worst case scenario” of each of the five masking policies he presented. Most committee members noted that a mixed approach, which encompassed 3 of the 5 options, would unnecessarily create division between students in certain grades who would not be required to wear a mask and other grades that would be required to wear a mask. Most committee members indicated that a mask mandate should be applied to everyone to “reduce divisiveness.”

When public comment was opened parents, students, former educators, grandparents, front-line medical professionals, and others lined up to share their stories and clinical study references that made the case that masks do not work to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, children are not at major risk to develop COVID-19, and that parents should be making the choice of whether or not to mask their children, not bureaucrats running the government-paid schools.

Jill Tabor, a mother of children who attend Lewis and Clark Elementary shared that people can use statistics to justify whatever they would like and that the health department and others were cherrypicking data to justify their positions. Tabor said, “Masks are not necessary for our kids.” She also noted that vaccines have been available to the general public for quite some time saying that teachers who are worried about transmission are likely already vaccinated.

An ER nurse shared that she masks for 12-hour shifts and opposes masking elementary-aged children saying that young children do not get or spread COVID-19. The nurse also said that kids are reading at slower rates and experiencing speech delays due to masks.

Another mother came forward and admonished the committee as a kangaroo court with no authority saying, “You said you are tasked with the health and well being of our kids. Guess what, I am the mom, that’s my choice.”

Another parent, Amy Livesay, shared that she had collected over 100 signatures on a petition to end mask mandates in Missoula County Public Schools in just 12 hours.

Several students shared their experience of being forced to take online learning because of mask-induced migraines and anxiety. Parents shared stories of their children being forced to interact with their peers and friends through fences due to fear of acquiring SARS-CoV-2.

One 6th grader said his mask was itchy and hard to breathe in and made him feel sick sharing that it was hard to be heard in classrooms. He shared a story of a girl who had a bloody nose on an airplane flight he was on and that a flight attendant screamed at the young girl to keep her mask on and that made him scared.

One man named Matt, who came late to the meeting and identified himself as a “Quarantine Monitor” for Missoula County, shared public comment stating that Louisiana hospitals were “full of children” with the SARS-CoV-2 “delta variant” and that “tubes being shoved down the throats” of children would happen in Missoula if the COVID committee did not mandate masks.

In a recent report, five children were reportedly admitted to the Children’s Hospital New Orleans, but the report did not indicate whether or not the children were being treated for COVID-19. The Louisiana Department of Public Health stated that 2,000 children had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but did not indicate if the children had a clinical infection of COVID-19.

As of July 26, 2021, there were only 81 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide in Montana with 1,045 hospital beds available.

Montana Hospital Occupancy and Capacity Report (PDF). July 26, 2021.

Missoula County Public Schools Trustee Michael Gehl offered public comment noting the climate of fear that the committee and school were perpetuating saying, “The conversation that I would like to be hearing, is “what is best for the child”.  But what I’m hearing is fear.” Gehl continued, noting that no child in Montana has died of COVID-19 citing Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services statistics,  “Absolutely no child died in the entire state from COVID.  Actually the youngest death was 23.  This is a virus that affects grownups and seniors the most.  And to be most accurate, 74% had pre-existing conditions.”

Gehl noted that government-ran school enrollment and student test scores were down and that mental health issues amongst students are on the rise due to government-ran school leaders decisions regarding the response to COVID-19. “Ask yourselves, what one thing is causing school enrollment to go down—in a time when masses are moving into this valley, its inconceivable to think our enrollment is declining; test scores to go down; mental health issues to increase—which our answer apparently is to spend more money on counseling services, instead of addressing what the root cause of these issues are;  homeschool enrollment to increase. I know of parents enrolling their children in other districts just to avoid these draconian measures,” Gehl said.

Gehl pressed the committee to respect individual liberty and parental choice saying, “Parental choice is the key here.  If you strictly look at the CDC and AAP guidance, they are not mandating, only recommending.  Its time to follow the Lead of Doug Reisig of Hellgate Elementary and Frenchtown School District —I have spoken to board members who tell me the intent is to open fully without restrictions— Billings Schools, and multiple others throughout the state.”

“The school board should learn a lesson, which the Montana Legislature taught every county health board in the state,” Gehl said. “Simply, don’t step on the rights of the individual.  The Missoula County School Board should listen to that lesson carefully.  Overstepping its bounds, by stepping on the rights of the parents can result in the state legislature rewriting the boards authority in the future,” he said.

“This board needs to get back to its mandate. To educate our children, and to do so without these draconian conditions we saw last year.”

Watson will use the committee input collected from yesterdays meeting to inform the reopening plan that will be discussed at the full board of trustees public meeting next Tuesday, August 10th.

Roy McKenzie

Trump-supporting, tax-paying, liberty-loving citizen of Missoula. Get in touch with me on Telegram.

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  1. […] parents have been attending school board meetings over the past month and half, voicing their concerns about school mask policies. The Hellgate School […]

  2. […] Wednesday, a day after considerable public comment at the MCPS “COVID Task Force” meeting, Missoula County Public School’s Superintendent Rob Watson cancelled in-person admission to […]

  3. […] addressed to parents, the letter was shared with educators and staff only. The letter comes just a day after dozens of community members attended the MCPS “COVID Task Force” meeting where most parents expressed support for parental choice when it comes to masking the face of their […]

  4. Rita Campbell on August 4, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    Here’s a suggestion to absolutely put the power back in the hands of the students and their parents if the mandate is approved. Back in the good old days of the 60’s and early 70’s we did an organized student ‘sit-in’ at the high school to protest the draconian dress code. We purposely broke the dress code rules and did not go to classes. When the bell rang we all sat down in the hallways, refused to leave the building and stayed put for the whole day. We had the support of our parents to do this. By the next day the student council was in meetings with the superintendent and school board. Does anyone even teach students about civil disobedience anymore? Our high school history teacher taught us. Students in large numbers go to school without masks, refuse to leave, refuse to social distance, read books and study together in the hallway, eat lunch together in the hallway, break every ridiculous covid rule, and stay with it until they are listened to. Parents call the school to say they support the protest. The actual power is with the people but it has to be claimed. Arguing for your rights with the superintendent is still giving him the power to grant those rights or take them away. We are blessed to be in the Frenchtown school district where the parents made it their choice. Hope that’s helpful! Rita

  5. […] day after over 60 parents, grandparents, students, first-responders, and other community members att…, with many concerned citizens sharing public comment against mask mandates for students, […]

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