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A House Bill That Would Have Eliminated The Statewide Public Schools Mask Mandate Fails

Associated Press

Day two of the special legislative session in Frankfort to deal with the state’s COVID-19 policies saw one bill to eliminate the state’s mask mandate in public schools come to a halt.

Shy of one vote, House Bill 1, was not approved by the House Education Committee this afternoon. The bill needed 12 yes to pass through the committee of 22 and three lawmakers passed because they wanted tweaks made. Republican Rep. Killian Timoney from Lexington was one of them.

“If I’m going to vote yes to remove the state mandate from KDE” Timoney said, “I’m basically saying that I trust the entire state of Kentucky to do what’s right regarding masks and COVID. If there is no matrix-like what was put in place because I was under the impression that there was going to be a matrix involved and it needs to be in here. That’s going to provide the cover that our districts are going to need in order to do what’s right for our kids.”

Republican Kim Banta who represents portions of Boone and Kenton Counties said she wasn’t surprised by the vote.

“Because people are not willing to give on whatever issue they have. It could be that they don’t believe that public schools should continue to get the funding they're getting” Banta said, “or they don’t trust our local school districts or our superintendents to say wear a mask. They don’t trust that either.”

While House Bill 1 also offered flex remote learning days and the ability to allow students to stay in school if they were exposed to COVID-19 but continued to test negative. While HB 1 faltered, an altered version of Senate Bill 1 with similar legislation was approved by the Senate Education Committee earlier in the day. Lawmakers took up the same arguments over mask mandates, funding and how to offer schools flexibility.

Lawmakers agreed that everything needs to be done to keep kids in the classrooms as much as possible. Many want to offer target instruction that would allow classrooms or schools to utilize NTI and virtual learning options when needed as opposed to an entire district.