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As school districts get back to the classroom, mask debate is front and center

Several districts have recommended universal masks, but not made a requirement.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The mask debate is once again top of mind and kids go back to school. Indiana schools have already started to go back and students in Kentucky will return in a few weeks.

The CDC, Kentucky Department of Public Health and the Education Commissioner have all made recommendations, but unlike last school year, there are no mandates.

Hardin County Schools district leaders answered some parent questions about the school year Friday, and they overwhelmingly had the same question.

“We had 57 questions that were asked of us, 55 were about masks,” HCS Public Relations Director John Wright said.

Superintendent Terrie Morgan announced masks are recommended, but not required for students and staff in school buildings.  

“What we are going to ask is everyone is to be respectful of everyone’s choice to wear a mask or not wear a mask, and that is the way we are going to start the school year as of July 30,” Morgan said.  

That’s the guidance many districts given out, including Shelby, Oldham, Greater Clark, New Albany Floyd County and as of Friday, the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The JCPS board made a different decision this week, making masks mandatory for the district’s 96,000 students.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Jason Glass spoke at a conference for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, saying whatever districts choose to do will be a risk, whether they mandate masks or not.  

“If you do [require masks] and then nothing happens, well then the risk is that people in your community will say you overreacted and that you made them do things that weren’t necessary so that’s a risk we have to calculate,” Dr. Glass said.  “Another risk is that you don’t put in place the necessary mitigation strategies to keep your school safe, and then something does happen.”

Many districts have chosen what they will do when school starts, but with guidance constantly changing, so too could their plans.

“This information that we’re sharing with you is as of July 30 at 12:08 p.m. Could it change tomorrow? Absolutely,” Wright said. “Could it change this afternoon? Absolutely. Could it change by the time school starts? Absolutely.”

For a list of local school districts' decisions, click here.

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