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With pressure building to 'Let Them Smile,' Fayette school leaders aren't ready to ditch masks just yet

Mask on ground
Paul Ratje/AP
FR171815 AP
A surgical mask lies on the ground during a prom held at the Grace Gardens Event Center in El Paso, Texas on Friday, May 7, 2021. Around 2,000 attended the outdoor event at the private venue after local school districts announced they would not host proms this year. Tickets cost $45. (AP Photo/Paul Ratje)

Fayette County school leaders held off on making any changes to the current mandatory masking rules in schools at their Monday night meeting. But it was clear the board is facing an increasingly restless public as COVID case numbers fall.

A public comment period at the regular school board meeting revealed a community still divided over the ever-contentious question of masks, though it was mask optional proponents who got the applause.

A teacher who spoke praised the board for "following the science from the beginning" and urged the leaders to stay the course, while another speaker said, "We have gotten messages that these teachers want to see these kids smiles." The latter prompted clapping from the audience.

A group of parents also assembled outside, hoping to persuade school leaders now is the time to loosen mask restrictions.

But Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said the district is still receiving updates on COVID recommendations and protocols from health experts and — while changes are likely on the way — for now, the masks are staying in place.

"I fully anticipate bringing back to this board at a time, should it be appropriate or necessary" a discussion about masking."
Fayette County Superintendent Demetrus Liggins

Gov. Andy Beshear has urged school districts to wait a few more weeks before dropping the mask requirement as a safety precaution while the COVID spike continues to wind down.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.