Kentucky Legislature Votes To End Universal Masking In Schools

The Kentucky legislature has passed a bill that would end the universal mask mandate in state schools. 

Supporters of the bill said their vote was about giving districts flexibility. In addition to being able to end mask mandates, districts will get 20 extra remote learning days, and the bill would direct the state Department for Public Health to develop a “test to stay” model for Kentucky schools. 

But, opponents said the bill puts Kentucky children and school staffers at risk. 

The bill now goes to Gov. Andy Beshear. If he vetoes the legislation, the Republican supermajority will likely override it. 

Two-thirds of Kentucky school districts were planning on letting students and teachers decide whether or not to wear masks before the universal mask mandate was announced, according to WFPL. JCPS was not one of those school systems. The district’s school board previously approved a mask mandate in July.

The Kentucky Human Rights Commission circulated a letter amongst state lawmakers today, warning that it would likely launch investigations should the General Assembly nix the mask mandate. This would be done on the premise that the bill violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by excluding some kids with disabilities from public school. 

The 20 extra remote learning days that the bill grants would be in addition to the 10 NTI days that each Kentucky school district can use should they need to shut down during this pandemic-tainted school year. Districts would receive 20 extra days to move individual schools or classes to remote learning. Before the final vote, Louisville lawmaker Rep. Tina Bojanowski attempted to add an amendment that would allow districts 20 remote learning days per school building, but her move failed. 

The “test to stay” program that the Department of Public Health has been instructed to create would allow for students and staff to stay in school if they have been exposed to COVID-19 as long as they test negative for the virus. 

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