Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen has accused Governor Steve Bullock of lying about his communications, or lack thereof, with her office regarding guidelines on opening schools.

In addition, Arntzen said the governor’s office has sent out emails with information that directly contradict his masking orders for schools.

KGVO spoke to Superintendent Arntzen on Friday where she described the email messages that went against the governor’s mandate.

“There was a chain of emails that shared that if you are in a classroom and you social distance as a student, you do not have to have a mask,” said Arntzen. “Another email came across that said if you are a teacher and you are social distancing, you do not have to wear a mask when you're instructing, and then another one that came in that said if you are a student reciting or giving a discussion in the front of a classroom, and you are six feet away that you do not have to have a mask.”

Arntzen said communications like these are confusing to the over 400 separate public schools in the state who are attempting to follow the masking mandate.

It says that ‘through the current crisis, I have worked to engage you and your staff’,” she said. “Now, those simple words; the word ‘I’ meaning the governor, because it's got his signature on it, ‘has worked to engage myself and my staff’. That's false.

“These decisions need to be made in a community setting with our health care providers and in a pandemic, where there's so much uncertainty, shame on the governor for now changing a directive that came through some memos, and then I had to go and ask for clarification, and I get a letter that's filled with untruths,” she said.

The untruth, as she asserts, comes from a letter received by her office on Friday morning, stating that he has been communicating with her office on a regular basis about starting school safely.

“It says that ‘through the current crisis, I have worked to engage you and your staff’,” she said. “Now, those simple words; the word ‘I’ meaning the governor, because it's got his signature on it, ‘has worked to engage myself and my staff’. That's false. This is the first letter in all the time that I have asked for clarification.”

Arntzen said the contrary information coming from the governor’s office harms the overall effort to start school safely.

“He has an order that has the force of law that now that he's rolling back, and parents don't know; school districts don't know; and our teachers don't know,” she said. “We must open our schools for learning safely, his inconsistency and such great uncertainty is challenging and stretching our public school system to the limit.”

Arntzen said that fall classes have already started in some school districts throughout the state.