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Regional schools left to decide fate of mask mandates

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:54 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - During the special session of the State Legislature last week, a bill was passed removing the statewide school mask mandate.

This put the decision for mask mandates in the hands of local school boards.

Some schools had their own mandates already in place, but others were taking guidance from the Department of Education. Now, those schools are meeting to decide if this is a policy they want to continue.

On Tuesday, the Perry County Schools Board of Education met and answered that question unanimously.

”It’s obvious, based on the science, that masks do keep people safe, especially indoors, and we want to provide as safe a learning experience as possible for our students and staffs,” said Superintendent Jonathan Jett.

Several board members expressed a desire to have the mandate end eventually.

”We don’t want our students to be told that they’re definitely going to have to wear masks for the rest of the year,” said Superintendent Jett. “We want to base it on what the virus is doing right now. We would love to make decisions, but, unfortunately, the virus continues to make decisions for us.”

In Letcher County, the Board of Education mandated masks in July.

According to Superintendent Denise Yonts, the decision was made with students at the center.

”Keeping kids safe and healthy first and foremost, but keeping kids in-person instruction which was a priority for us from day 1,” she said.

At Harlan Independent Schools, a mask mandate will remain in effect, but district officials were happy to have control of that decision returned according to Superintendent Charles Morton.

“We believe that we have the capacity to navigate and to manage this,” he said.

With the burden of wearing a mask in mind, Principal Justin Arms at Johnson Central High School, praised the students.

”The students, like I said, are doing fantastic,” he said. “I can’t brag on them enough. And they want to stay in-person as well.”

A common theme with the school officials interviewed is the importance of keeping kids face-to-face to maximize their educational experience.

We have a list of the school decisions that we know about on our website.

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