Fayette County Public Schools going mask-optional beginning Tuesday, March 15
District says decision is based on information from Lexington-Fayette County Health Department
FAYETTE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ/PRESS RELEASE) – Beginning Tuesday, March 15, Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) will institute a mask-optional policy, FCPS Superintendent Demetrus Liggins announced Monday. Masks will be optional in all FCPS district facilities and on school buses.
“Some members of our FCPS community will celebrate this milestone as a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic and a sign that we are moving closer toward normalcy,” Liggins said. “For others, this policy change may bring uncertainty or concern.”
The change was precipitated by new information received from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, advising that the COVID-19 levels in our community have reached the point where we can ease some of our existing requirements and follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for a community level of medium.
The CDC gauges community risk for COVID-19 on total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Our current numbers are:
- Case numbers: 33.42
- Hospital admissions: 20.5
- Hospital occupancy rates: 8.6%
Case numbers and hospital occupancy rates in Fayette County fall within the medium classification. Hospital admissions are slightly above the medium threshold of 19.9. After looking at multiple other community factors, Lexington-Fayette County Health Commissioner Dr. Joel McCullough told me this afternoon that he supported our district shifting to a mask-optional policy as part of a layered prevention strategy.
Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, FCPS has looked to national, state and local health experts, and adjusted our response as appropriate based on new data and updated science to safeguard our students, employees, and community.
The option is welcome news to parents, like Leanne Sebourn, who’s been fighting for mask options for months.
“I couldn’t wait to tell my kids,” Sebourn said. Its been a long time coming and we’re really excited to have that option.”
Fayette County Public Schools remains committed to implementing layered precautionary measures including enhanced cleaning protocols, frequent handwashing, physical distancing when possible, and extensive air-quality improvements.
Students and employees will continue the practice of staying home if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and reporting positive cases to our FCPS hotline at 859-381-FCPS (3277). Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to stay home for five days. On day six, individuals who have been symptom free for 24 hours without the use of symptom-reducing medication may return to work or school provided they wear a mask for five days.
When COVID-19 Community levels are medium, the CDC recommends:
- If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
- Get tested if you have symptoms
The district is also lifting all COVID-19 restrictions on school visitors and volunteers beginning Monday, March 21.
“We understand that comfort levels on mask wearing will vary throughout the community,” Liggins said. “We encourage every family to weigh your personal circumstances before making a decision that meets your needs.”
To support and promote a culture of respect, FCPS will also launch an initiative called “Either way, it’s OK” to serve as a reminder to all of our students and staff that each person’s comfort level and risk factors are unique to them, and we should treat each other with kindness.
In his message to families, Liggins said, “Whatever your family decides, I ask that you take a moment tonight to talk with your child about this change. Help them understand why your family is choosing to mask or not, and encourage them to respect the choices of their classmates and the adults in their school.
Fayette County is a wonderful community that embraces and respects differences. Masking should now become just another one of those things that we accept about one another.”