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Despite COVID-19 surge, Science Hill school district makes masks optional

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Posted at 11:04 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 09:30:11-04

PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The statewide mask mandate for schools, which was eliminated when the state legislature passed Senate Bill One last week, will expire later this week, paving the way for individual school districts to govern their own masking policies.

As of Wednesday night, Science Hill Independent Schools was one of just two districts to enact an optional mask policy, as opposed to a mask requirement. The board voted unanimously this week to leave the decision up to parents.

"No one knows their children better than their parents," said Jimmy Dyehouse, the superintendent of Science Hill Independent Schools. "So if they feel like their children are safe enough here at Science Independent coming to school without a mask on, we will more than welcome that."

The district, which consists of one building serving pre-K through eighth grade, is in Pulaski County, which is in the red zone with an incidence rate of 60.9 per 100,000 people.

Earlier this week, Governor Andy Beshear urged school districts to maintain a mask requirement in the absence of a statewide mandate.

"There is one right answer," Beshear said. "Where you choose masking, where you protect your kids, where you keep them in school."

"And then there is one wrong decision," he continued. "Where you endanger children and you allow COVID to spread throughout your community when your hospital is already overburdened."

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and many other medical organizations have recommended universal masking for students in indoor settings.

Dyehouse, who garnered attention last month for calling Beshear a "liberal lunatic" in a voicemail to parents, said that he is willing to reassess mitigation measures down the road.

"If it's not safe at school, we'll go back to masking," he said. "We'll do something different, shut down school, learn virtually for a while, whatever we have to do to keep our kids safe."