The lion's share of Kentucky school boards are opting to preserve masking requirements, even without being compelled by Frankfort. But the legislature’s decision to make school masking a local decision remains a contentious issue at the top of state government.
Upwards of 96% of school districts in the commonwealth are maintaining the masking status quo, according to the latest data from the Kentucky School Boards Association. That’s even after the General Assembly removed statewide mandates and farmed the decision out to district leaders.
Gov. Andy Beshear labeled the legislature’s actions a “punt.” On Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers defended the call, noting the vast majority of schoolchildren remain masked.
"Why do you say we have punted," the Republican asked, "when virtually all school systems have voted to continue the mask mandate? Right or wrong, they've done it."
Yet Beshear insisted it’s not a decision lawmakers should be congratulated for, noting that the net result is still that fewer students will be asked to mask up.
The fact that even a handful of districts are not requiring facial coverings, Beshear said, "means that disease that flows through there isn't just on the school district's hands, it's on the General Assembly's hands too. Had they had the courage to do the right thing and to keep the mask mandate in place, all those school districts would be safer today."
Senate Bill 1, which revoked the Kentucky Board of Education’s statewide mask mandate, went into effect Friday. As of 8 a.m., 165 of 171 districts had agreed to extend the mandates. Six had opted for optional masking.
As of 8 a.m Friday, 96 percent of Kentucky's 171 school districts have announced they will continue to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks now that SB1 is in effect eliminating the statewide mask mandate in Kentucky public schools. pic.twitter.com/anuS3uFtBt
— KSBA (@ksbanews) September 17, 2021