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Two Kentucky school districts in counties adjoining Lexington have announced that they are lifting their mask mandates.

In Nicholasville, Jessamine Superintendent Matt Moore said that masks in school will be optional starting Wednesday.

Moore said several factors went into making the decision including county data, student and staff cases and quarantines, the number of vaccinations in the community, and the success of the Test to Stay Program, which allows students who test negative for COVID to stay in class even if they have been exposed.

“I also communicated that, if the data does not trend in the desired direction, JCS would transition back to requiring masks,” Moore said.

Beginning Monday, Nov. 8, masks and face coverings will be optional for students, staff, and visitors in Madison County Schools at Richmond.

In recent weeks, Madison County Schools has seen a significant decline in the number of active cases and quarantine cases among students and staff. That decline is in line with the number of cases in the county, officials said in a statement.

The virus in Kentucky continues to recede. The Herald-Leader reported that last week brought the lowest number of new cases in 11 weeks, while coronavirus-related hospitalizations have dropped by 23% in the last seven days. On Wednesday, the positivity rate had fallen to 5.56% — down from 7.91% two weeks ago and 10.40% a month ago.

The district will continue all other mitigation efforts including social distancing encouraging hand washing, and continuing to clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces. Madison County will also continue to administer the Test to Stay program. Students who are participating in the Test to Stay program will be required to wear masks while participating in that program.

Masks will continue to be required on buses during regular bus routes because of a federal mandate regarding public transportation.

“We are grateful that booster shots were made available to employees this week and will continue next week, giving employees an opportunity for additional protection. We also anticipate that the vaccine will be available to children ages 5 to 12 in the coming days,” Madison County officials said. “Madison County Schools appreciates the support of our students, staff, families, and community while requiring masks and we ask for that support again as we transition to an optional approach for face coverings.”

Other Kentucky districts where officials have announced they have or are moving to optional mask policies include Williamstown Independent, Trimble, McCracken, and Paducah.

Kentucky school districts can make their own decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation masking as a result of a special session of the General Assembly that ended in September.

The legislature passed Senate Bill 1 that nullified the statewide mask mandate approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.

After passage of the bill, districts had five days to decide whether to approve their own mask requirements. On the day the mandate expired, only five of 171 school districts had decided not to continue to require masks, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Fayette school officials don’t appear inclined to change that district’s mask mandate any time soon. Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins has said that at a meeting with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department Tuesday morning, Health Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh encouraged district officials to remain vigilant about layered health and safety precautions.

The measures in place, including masking, are helping minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 in schools, Humbaugh told district officials.

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.

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(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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