LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Gov. Andy Beshear declared a statewide mask mandate during a news conference on Thursday.
During the conference, Gov. Beshear said wearing masks will be key to reopening schools.
“If we can truly get everyone wearing a mask when they’re in public, we’ll be able to reopen schools. And you know what, if parents wear a mask in public, their kids are going to wear a mask in school,” Beshear said.
For weeks, state and school district leaders have been working to establish guidelines for what returning to school will look like. Guidance released prior to the mask mandate included expectations students wear face masks if they can’t maintain social distance.
However, some teachers are concerned about how they will enforce masks if their students refuse to wear them in class.
“It's gonna be very challenging," Fayette County Education Association President Jessica Hiler said. "Not only do we have the normal challenges of trying to get everybody doing what they need to do and making sure everyone is behaving well while they're at school but then you add this other piece that they never had to deal with before. And this is not something our kids are used to at all."
Concerns raised by educators take into consideration both student safety and staff safety, according to Hiler.
“They're worried about their own safety. They're worried about the safety of their families because they have to go home to families,” said Hiler. “So that's a really delicate balance that we're trying to face right now is, ‘How do we make sure our kids are safe? How do we make sure our faculty and staff are safe and still have kids getting their education?”
Hiler said she believes teachers are willing to meet the challenge of reinventing their classrooms to keep students safe during the pandemic, but there are certain factors out of their control.
“Maybe they're socially distanced in the classroom but they're all breathing the same air, and the teachers are breathing that air too. So you know these are all questions that the decision-makers haven't found answers to yet,” Hiler said.
Ultimately, Hiler said though there are still many unanswered questions to how the upcoming school year will work, everyone is fighting for the same goals: quality education and safety.