More than half of Kentucky school districts opting for mask requirement

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

More than half of Kentucky’s school districts have opted to continue requiring masks since the legislature shifted the coronavirus-related policy decision to local school boards.

So far, at least 90 of the state’s 171 public school districts had signaled by Tuesday afternoon that they will continue requiring masks in schools, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association. More school boards were scheduled to meet later Tuesday to discuss mask policies.

Last week, the Republican-led legislature voted to scrap a statewide mask mandate for public schools and imposed a ban on any statewide mask rules until June 2023. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the mask-related language, but GOP lawmakers overrode him before ending a special session. As a result, the statewide mask mandate approved by the state school board ends Friday.

Beshear has said it should be a clear-cut choice as local school leaders make their decisions.

“There is one right answer — where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school,” the governor said at a Monday news conference. “And then there is one wrong decision, where you endanger children and you allow COVID to spread throughout your community when your hospital is already overburdened.”

A school custodian in eastern Kentucky died from COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming the second staff member at Lee County Elementary to die from the virus since the school year began.

The statewide vaccination rate among youngsters ages 12 to 17 is the lowest of any age group, with 45% having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In the U.S., anyone 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 shots. Meanwhile, school-age children are contracting the virus at a higher rate than any other age group in Kentucky, Beshear said.

On Tuesday, the state reported 4,030 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,154 cases among Kentuckians 18 and younger. Twenty-four more virus-related deaths occurred, raising the statewide death toll from the virus to at least 8,095.