Somerset Independent to require masks until at least Oct. 15

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Sep. 16—The Somerset Independent School District will be requiring masks, at least through October 15.

The Board of Education met in a special meeting Thursday to decide how best to proceed after the State Legislature put the decision of whether or not to keep masking policies in place in the hands of local districts.

Governor Andy Beshear originally issued a mandate forcing districts to require masks just one day before the start of Somerset's school year.

Masks will be required for all students, faculty, staff and visitors. The Board of Education will meet again on October 14 and will revisit the issue then.

Superintendent Kyle Lively said he felt the decision to continue the use of masks was the best path to take at this time.

"Somerset Independent Schools values individual and parental choice," Lively stated. "This belief was reflected in the plan to begin school without a mask mandate prior to the executive order. However, under the current COVID conditions this plan provides the district the optimum opportunity to achieve three very important goals: Provide a safe educational environment for students and staff, provide uninterrupted in-person instruction, and to continue to provide high quality educational and extracurricular services."

Lively added that he understands that the situation is ever-evolving. "I personally do not want to see kids and adults in masks for the remainder of the year," he said, but that would depend on what the COVID numbers are in the future.

Board Chair Scott Gulock said he was thinking of medical personnel during this current wave of the pandemic.

"I think in light of the stress on the medical community right now, it's our obligation to keep the mandate in place for a little bit longer," he said.

Lively gave the board the results of a survey that was sent out to parents Monday afternoon.

Of the 721 people who responded, 58% said they supported a requirement for staff to wear masks, 57% said they supported a requirement for students to wear masks, and 58% said they supported a requirement for elementary school children to wear masks if the requirement was lifted for middle and high school students due to elementary students not being eligible for vaccinations.

In addition to the mask requirements, the board approved an agreement with Envivo Health to perform COVID testing under a "Test to Stay" policy.

Students who have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive, but who are not symptomatic, may be able to continue going to class if their parents opt to allow on-site testing for that student.

The student must test every day for five days, and as long as those tests come back negative they will be allowed to attend. The program is voluntary.

Any student who tests positive during that time will be sent home with instructions to consult with their healthcare provider.

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