As of  9 a.m. Tuesday, 79 of 171 public school boards had already decided to continue requiring masks even after the Kentucky Board of Education mandate is lifted on Friday.

The mask mandate has been in place either by Gov. Andy Beshear or the KBE since the first day of school, but it’s been a roller-coaster ride throughout the legislative session. Lawmakers became responsible for making the call after a court decision overruled Beshear. However, KBE’s mandate stayed in effect throughout the process.

Now, because legislation passed last week to wipe out the statewide mandate by week’s end, the responsibility is squarely on the collective shoulders of superintendents and school boards across the Commonwealth.

Of course, the governor immediately implored school boards to keep masks on children, given the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases among children over the last few weeks thanks to the highly contagious Delta variant. Kids ages 11 and under aren’t eligible for a vaccine yet.

One may wonder about the masks’ effectiveness given the drastic increase in cases despite the mandate being in effect, but it’s obvious that many experts and educators agree it would be much, much worse without masks on faces.

“The masks, whether we like those masks or not, have been a major factor in keeping kids in school, saving us from having to quarantine large numbers of students,” said Raceland-Worthington Schools Superintendent Larry Coldiron.

Raceland and Russell, as of Tuesday, were the only two northeastern Kentucky public schools to not have to close or use NTI days to this point.

Greenup County Superintendent Traysea Moresea said eventually children will be able to move forward without masks, and perhaps the Greenup County district — as well as others — could shed the masks when the Kentucky incident rate map indicates it’s safe to do so. That’s exactly what Lewis County’s board voted to do on Monday. If the county goes from red to orange (or better) for three consecutive days, it will simply recommend masks.

Keep in mind the intense pressure these boards and their superintendents are facing these days. They’re in their positions for several reasons: Ideally, at the top of that list for the majority is that they care about the students in their districts.

So far, most are proving that they care by making sound, responsible decisions amid a dire time.

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