By Tom Latek
The Kentucky Board of Education has approved an emergency regulation that requires all individuals inside public school facilities to wear a face covering, which could remain in effect longer than the mask mandate executive order issued by Gov. Andy Beshear earlier this week.
While the governor’s action is only for 30 days, the state law emergency regulations is effective for 270 days. However, the Board indicated they would call a special meeting and withdraw or amend the regulation based upon the changes in guidance from state and national public health officials.
“It is not the intent of this regulation to have students in masks any longer than is absolutely necessary,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass.
According to the KBE regulation, everyone inside a public-school facility must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while students are present. Children under the age of 2, and any person with a disability or physical or mental impairment that prevents them from safely wearing a face covering, are exempt from the regulation. There also are some additional groups and circumstances exempt from the mask requirement under the regulation.
During a webcast with local school superintendents, State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said while masking is only one of many mitigation strategies, local, state and national health experts back their use. Another mitigation tool districts should implement is continued testing, he said.
The Department for Public Health is offering the K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program in partnership with the CDC. The program is voluntary and at no cost for Kentucky’s schools to help reopen safely for in-person instruction.
Testing is limited to staff and students of Kentucky K-12 public and private schools and includes school district employees and staff, such as bus drivers, maintenance, office staff or as determined by the school administrator.
The program, which is already underway, will operate the entire 2021-2022 academic year.
Some Republican lawmakers are calling upon Gov. Beshear to remove 2- to 4-year-olds from the mask mandate, since it also applies to daycares. They say young children going to daycare are still learning how to verbally communicate with others. The mandate for children as young as 2 will cause a delay in their social communication, mental development, and cognitive skills, lawmakers said.