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'We have significant community pushback': JCPS Board member wants school district's masking policy modified

Jefferson County remains in the red community level for COVID-19, meaning the school district's mask mandate will extend at least to the end of Aug. 19.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Board member James Craig wants the school district to modify its current masking policy.

"Given the substantial community feedback, I think we have an obligation to the city to have a discussion about it," Craig said.

Craig is referencing the latest results from a survey the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) shared among educators to gauge feelings on masks in classrooms. 

Posted Friday, the poll showed out of 3,406 submissions, 52% of JCPS teachers are against current requirements, 38% support the requirements and 10% decided to remain neutral.

"We were certainly hearing mixed feedback," JCTA President Brent McKim said.

Craig said he plans to make a motion for the Board of Education to alter JCPS' guidance, mandating masks inside its facilities when the county's COVID community level is in the red. The policy continues to fall in line with CDC recommendations.

As of Aug. 12, Jefferson County remains in the red zone, meaning the school district's mandate will extend at least to the end of Aug. 19.

"We have significant community pushback," Craig said. "There's no other school district in the Midwest or the Southeast. There's no other school district in the state of Kentucky that is implementing a policy similar to ours. So we are alone."

On Friday, Craig said it's time for the change and to adjust how we live with the virus. He referenced that Louisville entities like Metro Government and many major retailers in the city remain without a masking requirement, leading him to question the overall effectiveness of a mandate solely in schools.

"The question for us is whether or not it's wise policy to continue to implement a mitigation strategy that in my view won't work based on what is going on around us," he said.

Meanwhile others, like Breckinridge Metropolitan High School teacher Kumar Rashad, said they don't feel the majority should necessarily rule in this matter.

"The masking policy protects vulnerable families, [and] many of those vulnerable families are my students and their families -- given that my school is 90% Black," said Rashad, who's part of the 38% of teachers who voted in support of keeping the policy as is.

Rashad told WHAS11 that most Black teachers and parents he talks to want the extra layer of protection.

"The majority rule often doesn't take minorities and people of color into its thought process," he said.

Meanwhile, Craig said he hopes to have this discussion added to the agenda for Tuesday's Board meeting. If that happens, it'd be up to Board members whether they'd consider taking the policy to a vote.

McKim said JCTA as a whole isn't taking a stance, for now.

"I really don't know if we'll take a position when we're divided like that," he said.

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