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‘No tolerance’: 1 school system in Kentucky prepared if mask pushback gets out of hand

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Posted at 3:33 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 15:33:01-04

WOLFE COUNTY, Ky. — While Gov. Andy Beshear has strongly recommended that Kentucky school systems implement mask requirements for students and staff, the decision of whether or not to mandate masks has been left up to each school district.

Most school systems in the state require masks only situationally or not requiring them at all.

With the politically charged debate that’s grown around masks, there’s a possibility that schools mandating face coverings could get some pushback from students or parents. In at least one school system, administrators are prepared to take action if things “get out of hand.”

“Anytime someone gets out of hand in a school situation, we're going to address that with law enforcement quickly … (there’s) no tolerance for people who are out of control or making a scene,” Wolfe County Superintendent Kenny Bell said.

Bell acknowledged that “mask fatigue” and fewer virtual learning options might make mask requirements more complicated this year, but data on spread among students makes the masks necessary, he said.

“We want our community to understand we will remove the mask mandate just as quickly as we feel it is safer for our students,” Bell said.

When the county enters a “green” or “yellow” zone in its COVID-19 incidence rate, or it’s found there is very little community spread, masks will be recommended, and the choice will be up to individuals.

“When we are in the community spread, it only makes sense for everyone to do every single precaution that we can take to keep our students in school,” Bell said.

Fayette County Public Schools doesn’t anticipate any problems from students, and a spokeswoman said Monday that the masks would allow students to experience a normal school year.

“Last spring, our students demonstrated that they are not only capable of wearing masks, but also that they understand the importance of consistently and properly wearing masks in order to protect themselves and those around them,” Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. “We did not have issues then, and we do not anticipate there will be issues this year. Our student code of conduct outlines the steps taken when school rules are not followed and would guide our response should there be any disciplinary issues.”

Masks are “one of several layers” of precautions the school district has put to have in-person schooling safely.

“We believe that students learn best when they have the benefit of being together on campus with classmates and caring adults, and our families have asked us to do everything we can to keep our students in person,” Deffendall said.

For adults, Fayette County Public Schools restricts visitors to those providing educational or therapeutic services.

Leigh Searcy at WLEX first reported this story.