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'Our enemies are not each other': Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approves school mask requirement

The Board approved an emergency regulation requiring everyone to wear a mask inside public schools.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — About a dozen masked protesters listened in, as Kentucky's Board of Education unanimously approved a mask requirement for all K-12 public schools.

The board approved an emergency regulation requiring anyone inside school facilities to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. The regulation could last up to 270 days, though Education Commissioner Jason Glass said the requirement could be lifted earlier.

"Its not something we wanted to do, it's something we had to do according to state law," Glass said. "There are provisions in what the board passed that allow it to call a special meeting to end the regulation at any time."

The board also added a caveat to trigger an automatic meeting if the CDC or state Department of Health amend their mask guidance.  

Glass said the board wanted to enact their own mandate because their power is separate from the governor's. Beshear's executive order — which applies to public and private K-12 schools, preschools and childcare centers — is scheduled to expire within 30 days.

The regulation includes provisions for students who are hard of hearing or deaf, eating or exercising and other things. In most cases, if teachers are providing a service like phonics lessons, they can lose the masks too. 

For some of the protestors, all against the mandate, school isn't the same with a mask. Claire Royse said she'd rather go back to NTI. 

"I mean I would rather do that than wear a mask to school all day," Royse said. 

"Of course they don't want them, that's why we're here," Joe Throne said of his kids.

While some said they wanted decisions to be left to individual districts, Glass told the board the Local Superintendents Advisory Committee advised the same thing, and he felt he had to advise a mandate due to the seriousness of the pandemic.

"Our enemies are not each other," Glass said. "Our enemies are not school administrators or parents or republicans or democrats, our enemy is this virus and it doesn't care."

Protesters who attended the meeting Wednesday shared several different perspectives on masks, though all opposed a mandate. Some parents said they are considering pulling their children out of school. 

"Probably the same thing, go back to homeschool," Throne said. "Long as they keep going in there without a mask, and it's mandated now so I don't know." 

Glass expects the board's mandate to face a similar legal challenge to the one the governor's mandate is facing

Beshear praised the board's decision during his "Team Kentucky" update. 

"The Kentucky Board of Education did the right thing," Beshear said. "In a unanimous decision they stood up for the safety of kids." 

RELATED: JCPS schools report first COVID cases on first day of class, superintendent commends quick action

RELATED: Parents of New Albany Floyd County School students rally against masking at Board of Education meeting

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