Missoula Superintendent Watson Switches to Zoom-only COVID-19 Reopening Meeting Day After Major Public Comment

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.

A day after dozens of parents, grandparents, students, first-responders, and other community members attended the in-person Missoula County Public Schools “COVID Task Force” reopening plan meeting, with many concerned citizens sharing public comment against mask mandates for students, Superintendent Rob Watson sent out an email to MCPS Board of Trustees members letting them know that the next meeting, August 10th, will be “100% virtual format.”

With less than a week before an important meeting that will decide whether or not students, staff, and government-paid teachers will be required to place a mask over their face, Watson has closed off in-person attendance to a pivotal discussion on parental choice and the health of students.

Watson cited limited parking due to the Western Montana Fair taking place next week, but the MCPS Board of Trustee’s meeting on masks is August 10th. The Missoula Fair Grounds website shows that the Western Montana Fair does not begin until August 11th. The fair grounds website does not show any events scheduled for Tuesday, August 10th.

Watson also cited logistical issues with accommodating a large crowd, however, overflow seating and security presence was on-site during yesterdays “COVID Task Force” meeting.

In his email, Watson shared that there is capability to do a hybrid-style meetings where in-person meetings are also broadcast on online.

The COVID-19 Reopening Plan Meeting event on the MCPS website does not yet indicate that the meeting will be online-only still listing the address of the MCPS administration building as the location of the meeting.

You can read Superintendent Rob Watson’s email that he sent to the Board of Trustees this morning below:

Hello Trustees,

Thank you for your continued patience with our meeting format. I realize that in my 3-1 meetings we discussed the importance of in-person meetings. I also mentioned that 100% virtual meetings were still an option. The Hybrid format with some of you in the room and some of you at home, is difficult for discussion and conversation

I believe next Tuesday, August 10, we need to hold our Board meeting in a 100% virtual format. We have upgraded our zoom account and I believe the Board experience will be much better. If you have seen the zoom meetings done by City Council – we are using their same format. I have discussed this with Diane and she and I are in agreement regarding next Tuesday’s meeting.

I have made this recommendation for the following reasons:

1. The county fair starts on the same day and if you have ever been in our parking lots around fair time, you know that parking is a major issue. I would not want that to discourage anyone from coming to the meeting to give comments to the Board.

2. We will be discussing and deciding on face covering guidelines. Based on meetings that we have already had this week, I anticipate we will have a large crowd who wants to participate. While we can provide overflow seating, I don’t have the staff available to manage all the logistics with a large crowd.

3. As this decision has created lots of public interest, I believe this will be the best way to make sure everyone has a chance to participate and provide comment if they want to do so.

I know that some of you will be disappointed by this decision, however, I believe this is the best decision given our unique circumstances. I hope that you are able to participate at home with your own technology. If you have issues with that, please let me know asap so we can have our tech department help.

We will be sending you a zoom link asap.

Thanks, Rob

Superintendent Rob Watson email to Board of Trustees. August 4th.

About Roy McKenzie

Roy McKenzie is a former elected Montana Democrat who moved to Montana in 2017. Roy is the Publisher of Western Montana News. Get in touch with him on Truth Social (@royalton) or Telegram (@royaltonpatrick).
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