Teachers watching potential repeal of KBE mask mandate

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 10:49 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky lawmakers were back at the capitol for a special session Tuesday addressing COVID-19 related issues. They’ve already passed one bill that deals with extending the state of emergency, and are now focusing on legislation for schools.

Teachers say they’ll be watching closely in the coming days to see how the General Assembly addresses NTI days and the Kentucky Board of Education’s statewide school mask mandate.

“That is the one thing that I think is keeping our faculty, staff, our teachers, our students as safe as possible,” said Rowan County teacher and Ky. BOE member, Allison Slone. “I said to somebody today, ‘The masks don’t fix the problem, but they keep the problem from getting out of control.’”

Senate Bill 1 would nullify the mask mandate. But it also sets up a new way for schools or individual grades, but not entire districts, for virtual learning.

“There are some good things in the bill, that provides some flexibility for our school districts, but it doesn’t seem to go far enough, and on some issues, it goes a little too far,” said KEA President Eddie Campbell.

During his COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, WKYT’s Chad Hedrick asked Gov. Beshear his thoughts on the potential repeal of the mask mandate.

“I think universal masking is absolutely necessary if we want our kids in school,” said Beshear. “It’s very clear across the country, if you do universal masking, you can keep kids in school most of the time. It’s still a challenge, but it gives you the best option. If you don’t, nobody is able to stay in school.”

Beshear then referenced a report from the CDC that says because of the delta variant, the health organization recommends universal masking indoors by all students, staff, teachers, and visitors in K-12 schools.

“I’ve gotten phone calls from teachers crying,” said Slone. “I’ve gotten messages from teachers saying, ‘I’m going to have to find another job.’ I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have told me that they’re going to have to leave the profession because they have their own health issues or they have children that have health issues at home.”

The Kentucky Dept. of Education says they have “significant concerns” about Senate Bill 1. They say they’ve been working with lawmakers to suggest solutions “to help our districts get through the surge as safely while keeping as many students in school as possible.”

You can read those recommendations here.

The special session continues Wednesday morning.

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