FRANKFORT, Ky. — Education groups continue weighing in on Gov. Andy Beshear's school mask mandate. Some have expressed support, while others would prefer those decisions remain in the hands of local school districts.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order Tuesday mandating masks in schools and childcare facilities in Kentucky
- The Kentucky School Boards Association would prefer those decisions remain up to local school districts
- The Kentucky Student Voice Team supports Beshear's mandate
- Both groups say keeping kids in school five days per week is a priority
In a statement, the Kentucky Schools Boards Association (KSBA) said it was not consulted before Beshear issued an executive order mandating mask-wearing in schools and childcare facilities.
Spectrum News 1 spoke with KSBA Director of Communications Josh Shoulta Tuesday morning, just hours before the governor announced the new mandate. At the time, Shoulta praised the fact that masking decisions were up to each school district, which was something that changed soon after.
"What we are seeing is that no two communities are the same. No two schools are the same. How each district has chosen to approcah that and address the needs of families has been unique. At the Kentucky School Boards Association, we are strong advocates of those decisions being handled at the local level," Shoulta said Tuesday morning before the mandate.
Spectrum News 1 reached back out to KSBA Wednesday, following the executive order. KSBA sent the following statement on the matter:
"The Kentucky School Boards Association was not consulted prior to the executive order being announced, but the decision was not unanticipated, given the alarming upward trend in cases across the Commonwealth. We are currently working with local school board teams to quickly address how yesterday’s decision impacts districts and to determine what actions boards may need to take to comply with evolving guidance coming out of Frankfort.
KSBA advocates for local decision making whenever possible, and we have been inspired how our districts have continuously adapted their local mitigation strategies — taking necessary steps in close collaboration with local officials — for more than a year and half. We also respect the force of law that comes with an executive order. We are confident that, like with any other law or regulation, districts will be in compliance.
We recognize the challenges many districts face in having to hurriedly pivot to universal masking on the eve of starting a new school year. Nothing about this virus, or the steps we have had to take to contain it, has been easy or convenient. But this pandemic has shown us that the educators and staff in our public schools are flexible, innovative and committed to our students.
While there may be significant disagreement as to the ways we combat the virus at the local level, all education stakeholders share a sincere desire to achieve uninterrupted in-person learning for 2021-22."
The advocacy group Kentucky Student Voice Team had a different stance, applauding the governor's statewide school mask mandate. The group argued it is the best way to ensure students can stay in person five days per week this school year. Here is Kentucky Student Voice Team's full statement on the matter:
"The Kentucky Student Voice Team strongly supports the statewide mask mandate for Kentucky schools issued by Governor Beshear Tuesday evening. While we were hopeful to return to school without masks, rising COVID-19 rates and the spread of the Delta variant have made doing so unsafe. Despite what some have said about the negative effects of wearing a mask in school, public health experts tell us that masks are the least invasive way to protect students and ensure a return to the type of education experience we know and miss.
Without a mask mandate, our districts are more likely to be compelled to move school online or risk further spreading COVID-19 among students, their teachers, and their families. We know that online learning exacerbates disparities for young people with poor internet access, with parents who cannot work from home, and with special needs, and other marginalized communities. But with a mask mandate in place for our schools, we can better ensure that these students receive the resources they need, that fewer of us suffer from the worst effects of COVID-19, and that we receive the fullest possible education experience."
Both groups expressed that keeping students in school five days per week this year is a priority. They differ on whether COVID-19 mitigation policies should be decided at the state level or locally.