Mask or no mask for students? Debate rages on

Published 7:27 am Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The chairman of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday weighed in on the issue of whether students should be required to wear masks as classes resume, especially given the appearance of the deadlier delta variant.

Some school districts have made masks mandatory, some have not, while a few have decided to delay the start of the school year.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, says, “I think right now, the way it’s left up to local district decision-making is the best policy.”

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On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear continued to recommend that school districts require universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Wise realizes his policy idea flies in the face of the governor’s statements on the issue of masking.

“I do know the governor has a strong recommendation that districts go universally masked,” Wise said, “but I think at this time, allowing school board members, who are duly elected by their constituents to make that decision working with their superintendents and their school personnel, is best.”

Wise says it’s hard to have a “one-size-fits-all” approach on the issue to every district in Kentucky. “I think right now, the way it’s set up, it’s fine if school districts want to remain mask optional, but also tell parents if they feel comfortable masking their child, it should be left up to them.”

He adds, “That’s where we get into the relationship with parents, listening and working with school administrators to hear parents’ concerns.”

It’s not just schools where mask mandates or recommendations can be confusing, it’s also within state government.

Last week, Gov. Beshear ordered that people wear masks in state office buildings, regardless of vaccination status, while the Legislative Research Commission on Monday issued a new policy saying fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear a mask in committee rooms or other areas controlled by the LRC, while unvaccinated guests should be masked at all times.

However, the LRC added, everyone should be prepared to wear a mask in areas controlled by the state executive branch.