Anchorage School Superintendent Deena Bishop advised parents Thursday that when students return on Jan. 3, 2022, face mask wearing will be optional. Masks have been mandatory since the beginning of school this year.
Bishop, who in November announced her resignation effective June 30, 2022, said that with lower case counts of Covid, it was time to transition to normalcy.
But whether the School Board will go along is another story. The board has received at least 50 emails from parents and pediatricians objecting to the lifting of the mask mandate on students, and only about five emails from those supporting it. At Monday’s meeting, the radical leftist board may take it upon itself to override the superintendent.
Among those writing to demand the continued masking of children is the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who wrote a letter Friday to the board, leaning on board members to continue the mask use in schools, as “it is imperative that we protect our children by requiring masks in the setting where they spend the majority of their day.”
The pro-mask pediatricians may be persuasive with the board, as they were with the Anchorage Assembly when they waded into politics regarding masks in October.
Those parents who have an opinion on lifting of the mask mandate on children may wish to weigh in before the Monday board meeting. Letters may be sent to the board at [email protected] and to Superintendent Bishop at [email protected].
The board meets at 4 pm in executive session, and meets in public section at 6 pm Monday. The public meeting may be viewed on the district’s YouTube channel here. The meetings are held at the Board Room at the ASD Education Center, 5530 E Northern Lights Blvd.
The pediatricians’ letter said:
“We are writing to you to encourage the Anchorage School District to continue to implement the AAP guidelines for mask use in schools. As you know, vaccines are the most effective tool we have to end the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately, this is not providing the necessary levels of protection in Anchorage at this time. According to the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, the number of fully vaccinated 12-18—year—olds in the Anchorage Municipality is currently at 53% and the number of fully vaccinated 5-11-year-olds is at 14.3 %; both of these numbers are far below the national average for comparable ages. with these facts in mind, it is imperative that we protect our children by requiring masks in the setting where they spend the majority of their day.
“The AAP Clinical guidance states that “mask wearing has proven effective in reducing the transmission of virus from infected individuals. . and that “a signiﬁcant portion of the student population is not yet vaccinated. Masks provide protection against COVID-19 for unvaccinated students and reduce transmission.” In addition, newer variants have demonstrated that they can continue to be spread by and to other vaccinated individuals, which makes masking a powerful tool in helping to protect the school community.
“In Alaska we are not yet seeing an influx of the Omicron variant, but we are still experiencing the continued wave of the Delta variant. A concern shared by many, is that numerous children will be traveling outside of Alaska for winter break or hosting out of state visitors in their homes. School resumes on January 3 and potentially exposed children will be returning to the classroom right after holiday break. As there are no travel testing requirements in place, we could potentially have children with COVID-19 returning to the classroom. It would be prudent to add a layer of safety and ensure that children are masked in school for a least several weeks after winter break.
“Given the effectiveness of safety precautions when used consistently, schools can remain open and safe for children. We know that children are at a higher risk of suffering mental health issues and developmental setbacks if they miss out on in- school learning due to COVID-19 illnesses or schools needing to close due to outbreaks. The best way to keep schools open with children in classrooms is to continue using best safety practices which include universal masking school-age children.
“The full AAP guidelines on masking and school health can be found here: COVID-I9 Guidance for Safe Schools (aaporg). The full document outlines the current concerns as well as full recommendations. We welcome you to contact our Alaska Chapter with any questions about the current AAP guidance.
Anna Ogena, MD, FAAP
Jody Butto, MD, FAAP
Lily Lou, MD, FAAP
Kevin Kollins, MD, FAAP
Matthew Serna, MD, FAAP
Patti Clay, MD, FAAP
Benjamin Westley, MD, FAAP