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McCracken County Schools Board of Education votes to remove mask mandate

McCracken County Schools via Facebook

McCracken County Schools’ board voted to end its mask mandate Wednesday evening during a called meeting to discuss the district’s COVID Continuation Plan. This decision to remove a universal masking policy comes just three days after enacting it. This policy change takes effect Thursday.

“Since the Covid-19 vaccine and booster are widely available to school-age children and adults alike, the Board has voted to allow families to make their own informed choices regarding the use of face masks/coverings,” a release from the board after the meeting said. “Masks will be encouraged in school buildings but will not be mandated for students and staff.”

A 4 to 1 margin decided the vote to revert to a mask-optional policy for the school system. Board chair Melanie Burkeen, Vice Chair Kelly Walker and members Steven Shelby and Alice Shemwell voted to return to a mask-optional policy. Board member Tiffany Watson was the sole opposition to the motion.

This decision comes during a time of increased COVID-19 spread in the area and amid fears of an encroaching new variant of the coronavirus.

McCracken County is within the “red zone” — exceeding the benchmark of 25 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, per state health data. Kentucky’s incidence map for Wednesday showed the county as averaging 48.5 daily cases per 100,000 people. This rate is higher than the state’s overall rate of 47.46.

Masking will still be required while riding the school’s buses, per a federal mandate. Students participating in the Test to Stay program will also need to wear masks.

Additional COVID-19 safety measures were detailed in the release and during the meeting, including:

The district’s COVID-19 safety plan includes:

  • A virtual instruction option for students
  • Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all schools
  • A promise of ample supplies of hand sanitizer and other COVID protection materials on site and a continued emphasis on hand washing for students and employees
  •  Continued informing of students, families and staff regarding vaccine access and protocols
  • Air purification devices used in each classroom, library and front office
  • A reaffirmed promise to report positive cases in the schools
  • Preventing students and employees who test positive or display symptoms from attending school
  • Continued utilization of social distancing and other spread prevention strategies when and where appropriate
  • Instructing teachers to operate their classrooms in the safest manner to prevent spread
  • Limiting school visitors
A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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