LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky could soon update its COVID-19 recommendations for schools after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to suggest students and staff wear masks indoors as the 2021-22 school year begins, Education Commissioner Jason Glass said Wednesday.
Gov. Andy Beshear recommended schools consider universal masking policies Monday, the day before the latest guidance revision from the CDC, as the start of the upcoming school year approaches and amid an escalation of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the more infectious delta variant.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health currently recommends school districts require unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks, but Glass said that guidance could be amended to better match the CDC’s latest recommendation that school systems have all students and adults masked while inside schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends universal masking inside schools.
“We are planning on updating our information to better align with the CDC,” Glass said.
“The goal that we all have is to maximize in-person learning and to keep kids in school,” he said. “... One of the best ways we can do that is to prevent outbreaks from taking place in schools and to prevent the quarantining that’s associated with that, the disruption that’s associated with that.”
The Jefferson County Board of Education voted Tuesday to require universal masking in schools during the 2021-22 school year after hearing impassioned comments from supporters and opponents of the proposal.
Some area school systems are still considering masking policies as the start of the upcoming school year nears.
The Archdiocese of Louisville, Henry County Public Schools and Meade County Schools will announce masking policies for the 2021-22 school year soon, according to representatives who responded to inquiries from WDRB News.
“We are in a stage of constantly revisiting our expectations with the ever-changing COVID climate (and) ever-changing educational gaps our students are experiencing,” Zach Woods, director of student services for HCPS, said in an email. “All decisions regarding our COVID protocols are subject to change based on community positivity rates and new or additional requirements from the state or other governing organizations.”
Masking is currently optional at Hardin County Schools, but the district plans to discuss face coverings during a virtual back-to-school forum Friday, according to a news release. Face coverings are also optional at Shelby County Public Schools, and the district will revisit that policy after the latest update to the CDC’s guidance, said Cyndi Powell-Skellie, the district’s public relations coordinator.
Wearing masks will be recommended for unvaccinated students and staff at Bullitt County Public Schools and Oldham County Schools and left to families’ discretion at Spencer County Public Schools, representatives told WDRB News.
“We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its variants as the new school year approaches,” BCPS Superintendent Jesse Bacon wrote in a July 16 letter to families. “Student and staff safety will always remain a central focus of our work. If local conditions warrant reconsideration of our approach at any time throughout the school year, we are committed to communicating any changes in a timely manner.”
Beshear has not required universal masking inside schools, though he said Monday that could be an option if COVID-19 spreads “out of control” in schools.
“We don't know yet if it’s more dangerous than the previous version of COVID, but we do know that it is much more transmissible. That includes with our students,” Glass said. “.. We want to make sure that the students are protected, that their experiences in learning are protected and that we’re not creating a vector by which the virus spreads in our communities.”
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