Six community members let it be known Thursday night at the Hardin County Schools Board of Education how they feel about masks in schools.
Jennifer Bowman and Katie Keary, chairs of the Moms for Liberty Hardin County chapter, mentioned and read off emails sent between them and some of the board members.
Bowman said now that the mask mandate that originally was placed by Gov. Andy Beshear is now null, and that the decision has now been placed on the districts in the form of Senate Bill 1, she said now is the time to no longer have a mask mandate.
HCS officials have said the district will follow similar plans in regards to face coverings.
Bowman said the board should not be making “parental decisions” for students.
“These email statements told us that the only reason not to have mask choice would be a legal mandate either from the governor or KDE. Those have been lifted. Why would you make these statements if you did not intend to keep them?” Bowman said.
Speakers also again discussed stories they had heard about teachers taking away mask breaks for bad behavior.
Keary said she heard stories where bus drivers have not worn masks, or teachers not wearing them, either. She said masks are not effective, and that the decision should be determined by the parents.
On Friday, Janay Sutton, HCS Director of Health and Family Services, said the district is continuing contact tracing, cleaning and masking efforts to continue to have in-person classes for staff and students.
Sutton said the district is in communication with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, and is following their protocols and the Centers of Disease Control.
Recently, with the help of LTDHD and Cumberland Family Medical, the district implemented test-to-stay, which allows individuals who have come into contact with COVID-19 to test early on and if tested negative, they don’t have to be quarantined.
Between Monday and Thursday of this week, Sutton said there have been 240 tests among students, which has saved about 1,476 hours of in-person education. Sutton said universal masking is an important aspect to the test-to-stay protocol, however, to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We’re looking to help all 14,000-plus of our students, all 2,500-plus of our staff. Our intent is to stay in school and reduce transmission,” Sutton said.
Sutton said school-related positive contact cases make up less than 2% of contacts identified, which indicates to her that mitigation efforts are doing what they need to do.
“With what’s happening in the community, we’ll look to see if our health department wants to guide and lead us, and if we need to make some changes,” Sutton said.
Speakers during the meeting also discussed the mental health impact of masking and social distancing during school. Sutton said that having to spend long hours in remote learning can be detrimental in that aspect, and that the district wants to do what it can to remain in person.
In other board news
• Board Chairman Charlie Wise gave a construction update on the new East Hardin Middle School building. He said one part of a recent inspection had failed, and that they will continue to improve the building site to meet requirements.
• Superintendent Teresa Morgan gave her report where she discussed the newly implemented i-Ready testing system. She said she encourages parents to follow up on these tests, and also to thank a teacher when they get the chance.
“There has never been a time that teachers have been asked to do more than what they are doing right now,” Morgan said.
• The board then adjourned the regular to have an executive session which they were in for more than 45 minutes to discuss “pending litigation.” Afterwards, Wise said they would not move forward with any decision.
Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.