Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear rescinded his executive order Monday that required universal masking in schools. But it looks like most Northern Kentucky districts are sticking with universal mask policies anyway.
Why? They have to, according to a separate emergency regulation approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.
"Our district has no choice but to comply with the regulation, which is completely separate from any action regarding the governor’s mandate," Kenton County School District Superintendent Henry Webb told The Enquirer Tuesday.
The emergency administrative regulation, filed Aug. 12, states all individuals inside public school facilities are required to wear a face-covering over the nose and mouth. The regulation is set to expire in early May.
"The regulation is necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky public schools and prevent public school closures during the 2021-2022 school year due to COVID-19," the emergency filing reads.
Children under the age of 2 and those with disabilities are exempt from the policy, the document reads. People in school buildings are not required to wear a mask while eating, while giving a speech or broadcast, while swimming or exercising or while alone in an enclosed room.
Beshear rescinded his order after a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed for limits on his executive authority. Still, Beshear pleaded with school districts to "do the right thing" during a Monday press conference.
“We know how quickly the delta variant spreads, especially among unvaccinated individuals. You put a whole class of kids that can’t be vaccinated or who aren’t vaccinated together – this is the only outcome that you’re going to get,” Beshear said of rising cases in schools due to optional masking.
At this point in time, the rescinding of Beshear's order only impacts private schools, as the Kentucky Board of Education only has jurisdiction over the state's public school districts, including schools in the Diocese of Covington.
The Enquirer reached out to public school districts in Northern Kentucky regarding their mask policies. The districts that replied Tuesday confirmed they are continuing to require masks for everyone inside their buildings.
"We are monitoring the situation closely due to the volume of legal activity," superintendent Matt Turner wrote in a letter to Boone County Schools families and staff this week.
Walton-Verona Independent School District superintendent Matt Baker sent a letter to district families on Sunday regarding masks.
"I am asking every student, staff member, and community member to follow this regulation in order to ensure that we have a great start to the school year," Baker wrote. "Our primary objective is to maintain in-person learning throughout the 2021-2022 school year and I am confident that everyone agrees with this objective."
Tony Watts, superintendent of Newport Independent Schools, also told The Enquirer the district's expectations regarding masks will stay the same.
"We feel that wearing masks increases our chances of providing in-person instruction for our students. We also feel this is the safest way for us to stay in person," Watts said. "We will make the needed adjustments as things change."