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Students expected to wear masks come fall, school officials say

Posted at 11:15 PM, Jun 22, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Ahead of Gov. Andy Beshear's upcoming announcement regarding his 'Healthy at School' guidelines, school and public health officials told superintendents Monday that faculty and students should be required to wear masks when schools reopen.

"Speaking from my side of it, [wearing masks] is the expectation that I think we need to have for our children and their families," Kentucky Department of Public Health Deputy Commissioner Dr. Connie White said. "It's the families they go home to that is my huge concern."

The governor is expected to outline the guidelines for reopening schools on Wednesday, but Dr. White said it's vital that three critical aspects are included: wearing masks, temperature checks, and physical distancing.

"We have to work around the virus," said Dr. White. "It won't work around us."

Scott Hawkins, the superintendent of Woodford County Schools, expressed skepticism that physical distancing will be effective.

"To think that we can have school with every classroom at six feet apart is just not feasible," Hawkins said. "I don't think I'm alone in that. I just don't see that being a realistic possibility."

Kevin Brown, Kentucky's interim education commissioner, and Dr. White acknowledged those concerns and suggested that is why wearing masks is imperative.

"None of this is easy at all, I hear that," Dr. White said to the superintendents. "And I won't say I feel your pain. I have no idea what your pain is, but I do recognize that there is some. But we have a deadly virus and very few tools in our toolbox that we can use."

Superintendents are encouraged to develop plans tailored to their schools' needs and to establish procedures for how to respond when a student refuses to wear a mask.

The DPH expects students and faculty to remain masked for most of the day, but exceptions will be made for students who have heart conditions, asthma, or other underlying conditions.