Western Ky. School Districts Decide To Require Masking
Almost all western Kentucky school districts have decided to require face masks in schools following the state legislature’s decision to eliminate a statewide school mask mandate and leave the decision up to the districts and school boards.
The bill passed by the state legislature — which supporters say will better reflect the desires of individual localities — eliminates the state board of education’s mandate requiring masks in public K-12 schools, which will expire Friday, Sept. 17. Many districts have already decided to still require masking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccines and indoor maskings as tools to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has urged school districts to mandate masking. On Thursday, Beshear said that districts not requiring masks in schools were making an “inexcusable decision” that endangers students and staff.
Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton made the decision to continue masking despite not having “community alignment.”
“We are now in the difficult position of making public health decisions that impact our students and our staff, as well as our greater community,” Clayton said Sep. 13 on YouTube.
The latest surge of COVID-19 continues to overrun hospitals throughout the state, as some school districts are seeing staff members die from the virus. Another district saw a high school athlete placed on a ventilator.
Districts That Have Announced Plans
The following western Kentucky school districts will continue to require face masks in schools:
- Ballard County Schools (via its website)
- Butler County Schools (via KSBA)
- Caldwell County Schools (via KSBA)
- Calloway County Schools (via Facebook)
- Carlisle County Schools (via Facebook)
- Christian County Public Schools (via Facebook)
- Crittenden County Schools (via Facebook)
- Daviess County Public Schools (via KSBA)
- Fulton County Schools (via its website)
- Fulton Independent Schools (via Facebook)
- Graves County Schools (via Facebook)
- Henderson County Public Schools (via Facebook)
- Hopkins County Schools (via Facebook)
- Livingston County Schools (via WPSD)
- Logan County Schools (via Facebook)
- Lyon County Schools (via its website)
- Marshall County Schools (via statement)
- Mayfield Independent Schools (via Facebook)
- McCracken County Schools (via its website)
- McLean County Public Schools (via Facebook)
- Muhlenberg County Public Schools (via its website)
- Murray Independent School District (via Facebook)
- Paducah Public Schools (via Facebook)
- Todd County Schools District (via KSBA)
- Trigg County Public Schools (via KSBA)
- Union County Public Schools (via Facebook)
- Warren County Public Schools (via YouTube)
- Webster County Schools (via KSBA)
Many school districts made announcements that the districts would still require universal indoor masking on social media.
Henderson County Schools Superintendent Bob Lawson said Sept. 10 on Facebook the district will seek input from students, parents, teachers and staff — in collaboration with the Green River District Health Department and local hospital officials — to form a “plan that maintains a healthy and safe learning environment for our students and staff.”
Logan County Schools Superintendent Paul Mullins said Sept. 13 on Facebook the district is exploring options to safely reduce the number of quarantines in schools. The Barren River Health Department will review any changes to the district’s COVID-19 plans, including when to remove the mask mandate.
Lyon County Schools will require universal masking when the county’s incidence rate is classified as red and will require unvaccinated staff members to wear masks when classified as orange, in accordance with its COVID-19 plan. The district will not require face masks when the county is classified as green or yellow.
McLean County Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Burrough said Sept. 14 on Facebook universal masking will be required through Oct. 22, and district officials will decide whether to continue enforcing an indoor mask mandate by Oct. 21.
Crittenden County Schools will keep its mask mandate in effect until Oct. 15 to allow more time to consider metrics behind required and recommended mask wearing, as well as a "test to stay" option for quarantined students.
Similarly, Christian County Public Schools will reassess the need for masks before students return from fall break on Oct. 11.
Union County Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Sheffer said Sept. 10 on Facebook said masks will “likely be optional” when the county’s incidence rate is classified as green or yellow on Kentucky’s daily incidence rate map, and the district will consider making masking optional if Union County is classified as orange for two consecutive weeks. Masking will be required when the county is classified as red.
“I understand that the public is divided on the issue regarding mask wearing in schools,” Sheffer said. “However, mask wearing does reduce quarantines for students. With universal masking, we are able to reduce quarantines and provide in-person instruction with the least amount of disruption which is our ultimate goal.”
Community responses to continued masking in schools have been mixed, with some Facebook commenters thanking district leaders and others criticizing them. Some districts, such as Calloway County, chose to disable comments on social media posts announcing their updated mask policies.
Marshall County Schools Superintendent Steve Miracle said in a statement the board of education will meet next Thursday, Sept. 23 to determine its position going forward but will also continue to require masks in the meantime.
“That is not to imply that the board will make masks optional at the meeting, as we are reviewing as much data as possible to make that decision,” Miracle said.
COVID-19 data published from Marshall County Schools as of Thursday afternoon shows 114 quarantines and 27 active cases among students, along with two quarantines and one active case among staff.
Hickman County Schools is the only school district in western Kentucky as of Thursday evening to make option face masking indoors, according to the district's operating plan.
This story has been updated.