At least two Kentucky school districts have made face masks at school optional after the General Assembly repealed a statewide mandate for face coverings in classrooms.
While most school districts are still requiring masks, Science Hill Independent and Gallatin County are not.
In August, Science Hill Superintendent Jimmy Dyehouse in an audio message called Gov. Andy Beshear “a liberal lunatic.” Dyehouse made the comments when he was informing parents and staff of Beshear’s mandate for masks inside all Kentucky schools.
The Republican-controlled Kentucky General Assembly recently approved Senate Bill 1, eliminating that statewide mask mandate in K-12 schools. Under the new law, local districts can decide whether masks are required.
As of Sept. 20, masks will be optional in Science Hill school.
“Parents will choose whether they want their children to wear a mask while at school,” a Facebook post said.
Dyehouse told families in a message, “This plan puts the decision regarding masking of students back in the parents’ hands and allows you to decide what is best for your child.“
Dyehouse told the Herald-Leader: “My parents in Science Hill and my school board feel that masking students should be left up to each parent. No one knows their student better than the parent, and if they feel we can keep their child safe at school without a mask on, then they have that right to choose.”
“If a parent of a student or any adult in our building feels it’s safer with a mask on, then by all means, they need to wear a mask,” Dyehouse said.
He said Science Hill has had 13 positive cases since Aug. 11, and all have had symptoms much like a common cold or the flu.
“Students everywhere wear a mask for seven hours a day, then leave school and take their mask off, and don’t put it on again until 8:00 the next morning. While out of school, going to Walmart, department stores, the mall, the park, public playgrounds, ball games, etc.... All places where it would be very possible to contract the COVID virus. Yet, if we don’t mandate mask wearing at school, we are somehow putting kids in danger,” said Dyehouse.
“I’m really not sure about this logic,” Dyehouse said, ”so at Science Hill, we have taken a “common sense” approach to our COVID-19 School Operations Plan that was passed on Tuesday night with a 5-0 unanimous vote.”
The Courier-Journal reported Thursday that the Burgin Independent district had made masks optional. District staff told the Herald-Leader that the superintendent was unavailable Thursday afternoon.
As of Wednesday night, 76 percent of Kentucky’s 171 school districts had announced they will continue to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks after SB1 goes into effect on Friday, Kentucky Schools Board Association officials said.
In a Facebook post, Gallatin County Schools officials said that masks would not be required inside or outside schools, but district staff recommended their use.
On Wednesday, Kentucky public health officials announced 5,398 new cases of COVID-19, and 1,530 — or 28.3 percent — of those cases were in those 18 and under. The positivity rate is 13 percent. Only one county is not at the critical level of red.