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Some school districts choose to make masks optional despite new guidelines

New York student schools
Posted at 10:09 PM, Jul 29, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Gov. Beshear announced Thursday he would update his return-to-school guidance to include universal mask requirements for students and staff, but some districts have already announced they will make masks optional.

On the Knox County Public Schools website, a message updated Thursday reads, "As we begin the year, face masks inside our schools will be optional. Parents/guardians may make the best decision based on their student and family."

And a message from Superintendent John Siler on the Whitley County School District Facebook page reads in part: "This topic brings mixed emotions in our community but overwhelmingly parents and employees have shared their wishes that this be a decision for the parents and individual employees of the school district. At this time, with the full support of board members, I plan to open the Whitley County Schools on August 11th, not requiring masks."

Beshear has continued to encourage districts to listen to CDC guidance, but his recommendations are not mandates.

"I can't imagine what type of liability a school system will face if the CDC told them something clearly, the state told them something clearly, and in the midst of a pandemic with the most aggressive variant yet - knowing that most of their student body was not vaccinated - did not make the right decision," he said.

Knox County teacher and parent, Christina Trosper, said the district's decision not to require masks makes her fearful to send her 8-year-old daughter back to school.

"That will be the first time as a mom that I will feel like my child's not safe at school and I've never felt that before," she said.

She knows parents who disagree with her, she said, but she believes the safety of all children should be the priority.

"If she wears a mask but nobody in her class wears a mask, there's no point in her wearing a mask," she said. "So where's my choice as a parent?"

She wants district leaders to make decisions based on advice from health experts, she said, no matter how popular or unpopular they may be.