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Kentucky students returning to school in masks, what one group is doing to try and make them cool

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -In late June, Governor Andy Beshear and state education officials outlined the guidance for the upcoming school year and what districts would need to do to keep everyone safe. The guidance allows flexibility for each of the state's 171 school districts.

The back to school plan will rely on masks to keep students, teachers and staff safe, but for many masks have become a hot button issue.

Students have their own opinions on wearing them. Still, the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation is trying to lessen the stigma surrounding the masks through a new social media campaign and contests.

When parents begin their back to school shopping this year, an added item for Kentucky school children will be on the list, a mask.

Leaders at the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, a group that serves as a resource outlet for schools across the state, say they saw the writing on the wall when it came to planning for the upcoming school year.

“I think the non-negotiable is probably going to be the masks, and that’s how we are going to keep our kids safe, and that’s how we are going to keep teachers and staff safe,” said Nancy Hutchinson, CEO of KEDC.

It will certainly be different for students and staff this year.

Students are being asked to wear a mask if they are moving about or can't be socially distanced six feet apart.

For some ages, school leaders say masks just aren't possible.

“We already know that pre-school children cannot do them because the brain tells the child they are having a hard time breathing, so there are difficulties with that,” said Hutchinson.

We wanted to know what students think, their honest opinions about returning to the classroom in a mask.

We gathered several students ranging in age from 6 years old to 17.

“It’s going to be really weird, and it’s going to be hard for me to breathe,” said 6-year-old Karrigan.

“I feel like the masks aren’t such a big deal, it’s really just something you put on your face that can easily protect you,” said 11-year-old Joaquin.

“I for one am not very happy about it happening, but I know that without the masks we couldn’t probably get school started back and considering it’s my senior year, it’s my last of year high school I would at least like to have some type of normalcy,” said 17-year-old Zackary.

Karrigan, a soon to be first grader, was concerned about breathing, so we took that concern to Dr. Ryan Stanton.

“There should be zero concern about the breathing aspect and the safety of the mask itself,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton.

What about wearing a mask for a certain length of time?

Dr. Stanton performed a little experiment to help us understand while he was working as a track doctor for NASCAR.

"So just walked half a mile at 3 miles per hour and have been in the mask now for six hours, oxygen saturation 96 to 97 percent with a heart rate of 82 beats per minute. Clearly tolerating very well and what we can expect with everybody with masks, they will not decrease your oxygen saturation levels," said Dr. Stanton.

What Dr. Stanton is saying again is most students should not experience breathing issues wearing a mask.

School leaders understand the anxiety, frustration and discomfort this new requirement might bring, and that’s where the KEDC is stepping up to try and lessen the worry.

“Honestly, how we react as adults is how the students will react as well,” said Karla Kersey, a project development coordinator for KEDC.

To do that, they have started a social media campaign, videos talking directly to students about wearing masks.

There is also a coloring contest, and students can win prizes.

“We are trying to send positive vibes to students that it’s going to be cool to wear that mask to school because it’s going to keep you healthy,” said Kersey,

It’s all in an effort to motivate and encourage students and hopefully get them thinking about not themselves, but Kersey says the health of those around them.

“We want to do all we can to make it an easy transition when they start school, and it’s going to be an unusual time,” said Kersey.

We asked Dr. Stanton if we would notice any other symptoms from wearing a mask for a longer period of time, he says it is not unusual for children and adults to experience a runny nose and sore throat from wearing a mask.

He says as an ER doctor, that is normal and something he experiences frequently.

School districts like Jessamine County will make exceptions for those with medical exemptions.

To watch WKYT’s Amber Philpott, Sam Dick and Bill Bryant’s message to students on heading back to school and wearing a mask click below.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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