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Mask policy returns to Oldham County Schools as COVID-19 cases rise

The mask policy went into effect Jan. 11 and will continue for two weeks. Superintendent Dr. Jason Radford says it will help maintain in-person learning.

OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. — After Kentucky reported record-breaking COVID-19 cases last week and the previous week, a local school district said its returning their mask policy.

The Oldham County School Board voted Monday to require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks in all buildings for the next two weeks during the day and at their enrichment centers. This began on Tuesday. It comes two months after the district lifted the requirement back in November.

"We've seen an increase in positive cases amongst our students, and an increase in staff positive cases in our schools and across our district," District School Superintendent Dr. Jason Radford said.

OCS said masks were already mandatory on their school buses. That plan is expected to remain in place through mid-March.

“We recognize the importance of in-person learning every day for our students and we will do everything to make this possible. We believe these measures will help us achieve this goal,” the OCS Board said in a statement.

Officials also voted to accept new Kentucky Department of Public Health guidelines when it comes to isolation and quarantines with universal masking. The guidance came out just hours before OCS voted to bring mandatory masking back. 

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Now, per state guidelines, schools that require universal masking do not have to do contact tracing within the school’s population if a positive person is identified. Also, the schools do not have to quarantine any exposed students or staff members in the school population solely due to finding a positive person in the school setting.

Dr. Radford says OCS had planned already to address masking, but that the new guidance tipped the scales -- a game-changer that could lessen both teacher and student absences.

"Protecting in-person learning," Dr. Radford said. "And support our staff [too]. It's fewer students that have to be quarantined, that we have to provide [other] instruction for or access [to virtual]. It's a really big deal."

Those schools not requiring universal masking are urged to maintain contact tracing when positive persons are identified in the school setting and to quarantine all persons not up-to-date on their vaccinations if exposed at school.

State officials said regardless of a school’s masking requirement, those who test positive should isolate for five days.

The OCS Board said they will review their numbers soon and revisit the mask policy at their Jan. 24 meeting.

As of Monday, OCS' online COVID-19 tracker shows a total of 334 active student cases, along with 51 affecting staff in schools.

Oldham County Schools still has the Test-to-Stay option introduced back in September. That's for any students exposed outside of school walls to get the OK to attend in person by showing a negative test, and potentially bypassing quarantine.

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