FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the Kentucky General Assembly considers a bill on education during its special session on COVID-19, the commonwealth's 2021 Teacher of the Year is hopeful lawmakers will not end a statewide school mask mandate.
In its current form, Senate Bill 1 would render the mask mandate by the Kentucky Board of Education, "null, void, and unenforceable five working days from the effective date of this Act."
As the delta variant continues to surge across Kentucky, Teacher of the Year Donnie Piercey took to Twitter to urge lawmakers to let the mandate stand.
— donnie piercey (@mrpiercEy) September 7, 2021
"I want to make sure that every student and staff member in Kentucky is kept safe and right now masks- and if you are able to get vaccinated- to get that vaccine, it's really the fastest and best way to do that," Piercey said in an interview Wednesday.
As Teacher of the Year, he said, It's his responsibility to speak up for all Kentucky students.
"We're all ready for it to definitely come to an end," he said, "but right now in the middle of this latest surge of COVID, it's just definitely not the time."
During a news conference Wednesday, Senate President Robert Stivers said he believed the decision on masks should be up to individual districts.
"The mask mandate, when you think about that some schools or some classes had no or very limited exposure to the COVID or COVID variants," Stivers said, "these are the types of things that when you do it on a statewide, you don't get down to that local level to understand what particularly is taking place in a city or county."
Governor Beshear said Wednesday he hoped the legislature would include a requirement for masks in schools if an area surpasses a certain threshold for COVID-19 spread, like orange or red zone county status.
"Surely we should at least be able to get to a point where orange or red, they can either say masking at that point is required or they give authority to me," he said. "They can give authority to the commissioner but I mean being in a red county and going unmasked, I mean it just won't work."
The special session will continue Wednesday where the House Education Committee is expected to discuss the bill at noon.
The current bill would also include up to 20 days of remote instruction for districts and require the Department for Public Health to develop a "test to stay" program to minimize the impact of quarantines.