Face coverings in school: Health Cabinet recommendation means tough decision ahead

How to incentivize wearing a mask for your child
Posted at 1:55 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 17:35:03-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A recommendation is not a mandate, and while several school district superintendents seem to prefer it that way, it won’t make the decision they are facing any easier to make.

“As the superintendent of the Woodford County schools you’re probably affecting about 12,000 folks with the decisions you make,” said Dan Adkins, who’s in his first week on the job after leaving a similar post in Floyd County.

“We will not take this lightly and will gather all of the data, obviously,” he continued.

Adkins said his district’s summer school program has been a success as it relates to COVID-19 with no issues to report, but he knows the virus is beginning to circulate more among our younger population (the rate has doubled since this time last year). Once the school year begins, of course, more students will be in the buildings than during a summer session.

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services on Thursday recommended indoor mask use for students in grades K-6, those are the under 12-year-olds who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine.

“Our decisions impact children, so we have to think through that,” said Clark County interim Superintendent, Ron Livingood.

“I know my grandkids aren’t too crazy about the masks. Sometimes it sparks a little fear, so we have to balance that element with the safety element,” Livingood continued.

It’s also a juggling act when you consider this: If we enter the school year mask-free, what then would happen should a rash of cases begin to spread within a school or district? Some districts would be faced with having to return to virtual learning, which is something no one wants.

“It’s a good (question). Part of balancing the safety that masks provide between the discomfort, or fear they may generate. That’s the balance we have to think through,” Livingood added.

Both Livingood and Adkins said this decision won’t be made lightly and that they will follow the science, and work with their respective county’s health department officials to help guide any decision.

“We're going to listen to as much community input as we can,” Adkins said.

Same in Bourbon County, where superintendent Amy Baker said her district is “taking a look over new guidance and waiting a few days before making any decisions,” about a policy for the coming school year.

Adkins said temperature checks, and other safety measures will remain in the Woodford County schools, even if they decide to go without the masks.

Adkins and Livingood both said they are pleased that, as of now, this is not a mandate from the state and the decision will be made on the local level.

“It’s a bigger picture than just fighting off a germ, sometimes,” Livingood said, before adding that he’d certainly adhere to a mandate, and will do whatever keeps his students safe while considering their emotional health as well.