Bill removing school mask mandates and allowing more flexibility for Kentucky schools moves forward in special sessions

Back to school during Covid-19 pandemic

In an effort to nullify the mandated masking regulations from the Kentucky Department of Education and give schools more teaching alternatives, Senate Bill 1 cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday afternoon on the first day of the called special session.

Sen. Max Wise explained to the Senate Education Committee that Senate Bill 1 will do away with the statewide mask mandate in schools and give local school boards a larger role in the decision-making process in their districts.

Additionally, the bill seeks to tackle the struggles of COVID-19 exposure and quarantining within schools and how it impacts an entire district.

RELATED: Student testing, teacher staffing issues, school funding and more discussed ahead of possible special session

Wise said there have been many concerns about the use of non-traditional instruction (NTI) days, as many districts have already been forced to use NTI days due to an exposure in a school. When one NTI day is used, it is used for the entire district, causing many districts to seek additional NTI days or added flexibility.

The legislation allows for the use of 20 days of remote instruction to be provided to a class, grade level or school through December 31, 2021. Sen. Wise noted remote instruction is different than NTI, as remote instruction ensures a full day of classroom learning remotely as opposed to a work book being sent home. This will serve as another option in education to help avoid district-wide shutdowns, Wise said.

As schools experience shortages in their workforce and teacher quarantines, the SB 1 also allows for relaxed regulations around substitute teachers to expedite and ensure qualified individuals are able to serve as substitutes in the classroom. The bill also allows retired Kentucky school teachers to come back into the classroom at their full salary and with their retirement as needed.

The legislation also allows school districts to use 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 data, which deals with attendance being tied to funding, as schools have expressed concerns about not receiving certain levels of funding due to COVID-19 complications.

Senate Bill 1 now moves to the full Senate.

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for more details and information throughout the special session.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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