COVID-19 Guidance and Q&A

Fall 2021

How will I know if my student is identified as a close contact?
If your student was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case at school or elsewhere and is identified as a Close Contact, you may receive a notice with guidance from your county health department. Health departments will contact family members of close contacts and any close contacts that have high risk health issues. Please follow your county health department’s guidance and stay home if recommended; Obtain a COVID-19 test as instructed.

What instructions will I receive from the health department if I am notified that my child or I are a close contact?
Please see the Lewis & Clark Public Health close contact instructions.

Where can my student be tested for COVID-19 test?
Each school has a designated location for student COVID-19 tests. If your student is symptomatic and is at home, please call your school to arrange for a testing appointment at your school.

For additional test options, please see the Lewis and Clark County COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing tracker.

What if my student was identified as a close contact and tests negative for COVID?
Please consult with your school nurse before returning your student to school.

Can a test result from a home COVID-19 test kit be used for my student to return to school?
Please consult your school nurse. 

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine for my student or myself?
Please see the Lewis and Clark County COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing tracker.

Where does Helena Public Schools require masks?
Masks are required for students and staff at all PreK-8 schools. Masks are strongly recommended for 9-12 schools. Masks are required on school buses per federal law.

Masks are required in all indoor areas in PreK-8 school buildings. Please note the following:

  • Face coverings are not required when outdoors.
  • Face coverings are not required when eating/drinking while maintaining physical distancing as each site/school allows.
  • In some circumstances to enhance instructional delivery, staff may lower face covering for a short period of time (several minutes) while teaching, presenting, and speaking or providing directions if they can maintain appropriate distance (6ft) from others.
  • When working alone, not with students or members of the public, staff may remove face coverings.
  • To be determined by staff, there may be opportunities for students for routine “mask breaks” throughout the day, if appropriate distancing can be maintained.
  • Health Exemption:
    • Student: Provide a contraindicated document from your medical provider to your school nurse.
    • Staff/Adult: Provide a contraindicated document from your medical provider to your site principal and District Office HR.

What types of masks or other face coverings are allowed?
For details regarding face coverings (types and proper use), HPS follows CDC guidance. Consistent with last year’s mask guidance, scarves and bandanas are not allowed. Masks made of lace, fishnet, mesh, hosiery and other loosely woven materials are not protective and do not meet the K-8 district mask requirement.

Are masks required on school buses?
Yes. Per federal law, passengers and drivers on school buses must wear a mask, including on buses operated by public and private school systems.

When will the PreK-8 mask requirement be lifted?
The PreK-8 mask requirement will remain in effect if local transmission rates remain at the “high” or “substantial” level. These guidelines may be modified, reduced, or extended. Factors that will be used in decision making include, but are not limited to, the local transmission rate (new cases per 100,000 over a 7-day rolling average), local vaccination rate by age group, and district data related to school-associated positive COVID cases and/or transmission.

When there are changes to HPS mask guidelines, parents will be notified no later than 3 p.m. on Friday prior to the upcoming school week.

HPS is committed to a COVID-19 response plan that makes sense for our community and will continue to monitor local conditions and adjust our safety recommendations, accordingly, including those around face coverings.

Are visitors be allowed at PreK-8 schools this fall?
While masks are required at the PreK-8 level, HPS has suspended visitors, parents, volunteers, and presenters within the school. Parents are still welcome to come to school and do business at the front office while masked. Thank you for your understanding.

Will students still have remote or blended learning options for school attendance?
In order to return students to the classroom full-time, the district has returned our teachers to the classroom full-time. HPS has entered a partnership with third-party providers for its Online Learning Program. The provider for grades K-12 is Edgenuity. Grades 9-12 will also use the Montana Digital Academy.  All Edgenuity and Montana Digital Academy teachers are certified by the State of Montana.

If you are interested in participating in the Online Learning Alternative Program, please contact your child’s school administrators for assistance with the application process.

What if I want to opt-out of the PreK-8 mask requirement?
Helena Public Schools is prepared to provide assistance to parents looking to exercise an opt-out option. Parents seeking off-campus virtual learning should contact their school principal.

When a student has a medical reason for being unable to follow mask guidelines, the district will meet with parents to guide them through the 504 process to determine what accommodations it can reasonably provide including virtual learning.