Masks and vaccinations will be optional for both students and staff when school resumes on August 17, according to the 2021-2022 reopening plan published to the Webster County Schools website on Monday.

“Our students and staff have been at camps, VBS, swimming pools, vacations, family reunions etc... all summer without masks (vaccinated or not),” superintendent Rhonda Callaway wrote in a Facebook post. “Do we encourage getting the vaccine, absolutely, however, that too is a personal choice. Unless there is a mandate issued, masks will be a personal choice for the 2021-2022 school year in WebCo.”

According to the reopening plan, by this point all staff and students over the age of 12 have had an opportunity to be vaccinated. All though there is no requirement, anyone over 12 is encouraged to do so before the start of school. The only difference between those who are vaccinated and those who are not, is that vaccinated students and staff will not be required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who has the virus.

Although the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Governor Andy Beshear urge masking for anyone who has not been vaccinated, the district believes that this is a personal choice, one that can only be made by parents/guardians and their children.

The district plans to continue social distancing as much as possible, as well as expecting students and staff to follow proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette. School officials will also continue enhanced cleaning of buildings and busses.

Parents are urged to screen their students for COVID-19 symptoms before allowing them to leave for school.

The Webster County Health Department and Green River District Health Department will provide guidance on contact tracing, isolation and quarantines.

In the event of a potential exposure, district officials insist that school employees will not be responsible for enforcing regulation nor any future mandates. In the event of an exposure, no employees will be asking students if they have been vaccinated, that job will fall to health department staff.

Governor Andy Beshear issued new COVID-19 guidelines to schools on Monday, but stopped short of issuing any binding mandate, which leaves it up to each school to determine its own path forward.

“Without mitigation efforts, we expect the delta variant will spread through unvaccinated classrooms and throughout buildings resulting in large, frequent quarantines of students and staff,” Beshear said.

The governor’s recommendations include:

•School districts should require all unvaccinated students and unvaccinated adults to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings;

•School districts should require all students under 12 years of age to wear a mask when in classrooms and other indoor school settings; and

•School districts wishing to optimize safety and minimize the risk of educational and athletic disruption should require all students and all adults to wear a mask while in the classroom and other indoor school settings.

“If we truly want as many in-person classroom days (as possible), these are steps that school districts will need to take,” Beshear said.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069