OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. — Public schools in Oldham County were closed Friday because of the weather, but the discussion among faculty grows as staff prepare for more days, and potentially weeks, of universal masking inside school buildings.
In an Oldham County Department of Education meeting this week, Superintendent Dr. Jason Radford said COVID-19 cases across the district dropped in recent days, but he said he wants them to continue trending down before considering lifting the mask requirement.
In the meeting, school district leaders chose to extend the mandate for "the time being."
But some school administrators are frustrated, calling for district leaders to drop universal masking now and do away with student quarantines altogether unless the student is feeling sick.
"My premise would be that the sick kids would stay home, and those who are healthy would come to school," Oldham County High School Principal Andy Moore said.
His comment met with applause from many attending the meeting.
Moore said he wants to keep asymptomatic kids in the classroom, so they don't miss out on multiple learning days at a time.
Others, like Principal Elizabeth Dant from Buckner Elementary School, added ongoing concerns with masks.
"Teaching a child to read in this mask is impossible," Dant said.
School board members didn't provide direct feedback to Moore's suggestion.
This all comes just over two weeks since Oldham County adopted new state health guidelines. It allows fully-masked school districts to eliminate quarantines for students and staff who are only exposed.
Some school administrators at Monday's meeting also expressed desires to do away with contact tracing completely, with or without face coverings.
"We're excessively testing," Moore said. "I have a colleague who tested their child -- no symptoms -- and is going to end up having to miss the entire week again to stay home with a child who tested positive, and it's testing a healthy kid. Was she sick? No."
Meanwhile, some parents, like former teacher Amy Tyler, said you can't have everything.
"If we get rid of masks, then we do need to contact trace," she said.
While Tyler said she understands the faculty's desire to prevent learning loss, she believes the district's decision to this point is the right one.
"Let's get this under control first, and then attack it when it's under control. Right now, the numbers are so high," Tyler said.
Oldham County's Board of Education has given Superintendent Radford the ability for the next few weeks to make decisions on the mask requirement and other mitigation protocols, if case numbers continue to "trend down."
If no changes are made by OCBE's next meeting on Feb. 28, board members will review the masking policy and decide whether to take action then.
For Oldham County Schools' latest COVID numbers, click here.
Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.
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