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Officials: JCPS Superintendent expected to recommend universal mask policy

Dr. Marty Pollio is expected to meet with Board members to discuss the mask policy for the 2021-22 school year at Central High School on Tuesday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) students head back to the classroom in a couple of weeks and school board officials are getting ready to lay out plans for a safe return.

The Board of Education will host a meeting at Central High School on Tuesday where Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio is expected to recommend a universal mask requirement.

If approved, it would mean all students, staff and visitors - regardless of their vaccination status - would have to wear masks inside JCPS facilities.

However, masks would not be required outside of JCPS facilities.

The district’s recommendations come as state officials, the CDC and the Kentucky Department for Public Health announced their guidance for the 2021-22 school year. Both said they'd recommend masks inside school buildings for unvaccinated staff and students -- and require them for everyone on public transportation like school buses -- but would give school districts the ultimate say.

RELATED: 'The answer to the pandemic is vaccines' | Gov. Beshear recommends masking of unvaccinated students, staff in classrooms

Board officials are also expected to discuss a possible extension of the Pathfinder School of Innovation, a virtual schooling option,  to elementary students.

Officials said the Kentucky Department of Education would have to approve any request from JCPS to offer virtual courses to kindergarten to 5th grade students.

Classes for Jefferson County Public Schools are expected to begin on Aug. 11.

"Several people would prefer that we only recommend masks, but it's unworkable and is inconsistent with all public health recommendations," said James Craig, representing District 3 on JCPS' Board of Education.

Ahead of Tuesday's special meeting hosted by the school board, an email from the district told parents to expect Superintendent Pollio to push for a mask requirement in the fall, regardless of vaccinations.

Three school board members -- Corrie Shull, Chris Kolb and James Craig -- have already voiced support for the superintendent's thinking.

"Yes I'll be voting for it," Craig told WHAS11 on Monday.

Craig said requirements based on vaccine status aren't enforceable.

Other Board members, like Sarah McIntosh, tell us they're on the fence, with no way to make every single parent happy.

We also spoke to families: Some with kids vaccinated, and others not because of age.

"It makes me feel a lot more comfortable that he's going to school and not getting sick. I wanted him to wear one regardless," said Teresa Hernandez, whose 8th grade son Christian is vaccinated.

RELATED: Why aren’t COVID-19 vaccines available for kids yet?

Meanwhile, parent groups like "Let Them Learn in JCPS" and "Let Them Play in Kentucky" are calling this a distraction from education.

Let Them Play in Kentucky's founder Dawne Perkins said "...the key is to entrust parents with personal matters because they can make the best decision for their child and need a voice at the decision-making table."

While some parents have already made up their minds, others could have to shift based on Tuesday's vote and decision.

Even if the universal mask requirement is passed, it would not apply to when staff and students are outside of JCPS property.

The executive session of the meeting will start at 4:30 p.m., and the business meeting portion will start at 6 p.m. at Central High School. School board members say they expect the meeting to run long. 

Parents groups say the public will be allowed to make comments.

Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at ikimmartin@whas11.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.

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