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Ky. school districts making decisions on masks after lawmakers end statewide mandate

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 11:15 AM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky lawmakers finished their special session late Thursday night, ending a three day marathon session with several bills passed that will effectively end current statewide mask mandates and prevent others from following.

The governor vetoed parts of two bills, but the legislature quickly overrode those. Both House and Senate overrode the vetoes of parts of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2.

SB 1, which include the ban on the statewide mask mandate in schools, and SB 2 for everywhere else. This means that local school districts will now have to make decisions on masks.

The outcome of the special session is that the governor and the Kentucky Department of Education cannot issue mask mandates in schools. It’s now up to local districts.

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We have already seen that beginning to take shape. Several school districts, such as Lincoln County, Franklin County and Paris Independent Schools, have already decided to require masks. Jefferson County said their own mandate will also stay in effect and Fayette County has a school board meeting Monday.

“We are going to continue doing what is best for the safety of our staff and students. And, right now, the way the data is, we are going to continue to mandate masks,” said Franklin County Superintendent Mark Kopp.

Gov. Andy Beshear says the legislature made the wrong move regarding mask guidance.

“The legislature asked to go in, to go in as QB, and what did they do, they punted on first down,” said Gov. Beshear.

“So, if it’s done at the local level, if they feel it is there, I think It will done,” said Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Senate President. “I think these superintendents have enough sophistication about them, enough concern, they will make the right decision, regardless of what it might be.”

Governor Beshear says the legislature did do the right thing in extending the state of emergency, setting up more testing, and economic development and he says they are providing some more flexibility for schools, but not enough. But, he also says there’s a contradiction.

“We are not going to have masking, because we trust our local schools and school officials,” Gov. Beshear said. “But, we are going to be very restrictive in how they have to do remote learning. Because we don’t trust our local school officials.”

The governor says the legislature wanted to make decisions for Covid and, now, he says they own this pandemic. However, some Republicans say all along they wanted to be part of the decision making process.

“I said this facetiously, we were never invited to be on the team until the court said he had to invite us. Because he had no authority unless we gave it to him,” Sen. Stivers said.

Stivers said once the Supreme Court ruled, the governor did begin giving them regular updates about various Covid information.

Since SB 1 had an emergency clause, it takes effect immediately. However, the statewide school mask mandate won’t be voided until five working days after it became law.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that earmarks more than $69 million in American Rescue Plan dollars for various health care needs, prisons, and schools.

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