Anchorage Superintendent Bishop to remove masks from kids starting Feb. 28; will school board allow it?

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By DAVID BOYLE

Recently, Anchorage School Board President Margo Bellamy led the board in overriding Superintendent Deena Bishop’s effort to allow students to be able to breathe freely again, unmasked.

“I am confident that ASD is able to transition to parent-informed masking when we return to school on January 3rd,” Bishop said on Dec. 15. Except for member Dave Donley, the school board did not believe it was time to do so.  Instead of allowing parents to decide whether their children needed to wear masks, and instead of allowing Bishop to lead the district, Bellamy and her fellow board members believed they knew better than parents. The masks stayed on.

Students were to be masked until Jan. 15. It is now February 18, and the children still cannot go to school without masks. The board cites the broad belief they are following the science, yet no scientific data has been presented to validate this assertion. 

Now, Bishop has sent a letter to the parents saying she intends to make a mask-optional policy starting Feb. 28.

“Absent unforeseen conditions, I propose to transition the Anchorage School District (ASD) to parent-informed, optional mask wearing for students and optional mask wear for adults in our schools and facilities. This districtwide change will be implemented on Monday, February 28th. It’s time to do this for our students,” Bishop wrote to parents.

“As a career educator, I understand how critical it is to focus the District’s energy on student learning. I believe that continued mandatory mask wearing is counter-productive and negatively impacts our students’ education, intellectual development, and emotional well-being. COVID-19 cases across the State of Alaska (SOA), Municipality of Anchorage (MOA), and ASD are dropping rapidly. Overall knowledge of COVID-19 and the availability of effective vaccines and treatments largely enable a return to normalcy in the classroom,” she wrote.

Bishop said the last two years have been challenging for everyone and the District strives to be responsive to staff and student needs. “I plan to sustain all other mitigation measures and procedures that allowed us to re-open schools and keep them open during the Omicron outbreak. The District is prepared to offer PCR tests to symptomatic staff and students through the end of the school year. Our COVID-19 page includes this year’s timeline and outlines our step-down approach,” she said in her note.

The district reports that as of Feb. 18 there were 71 positive PCR tests among all students and staff. This means that of the 48,377 students and staff, 0.14% tested positive for Covid.  There is no information about how affected any of these students or staff had been by testing positive. Were any hospitalized or severely ill? 

Board President Bellamy has been more interested in the board’s ability to exert power and to force unneeded mandates on children. But with elections on the horizon and Bellamy running for re-election, it’s possible the board will go along with Superintendent Bishop and allow the mask mandate to expire.

The matter will be a topic of Tuesday’s Anchorage School Board meeting.

At the Feb. 9 board meeting, Board member Donley asked about the masking of students and cited several studies, including a reference to an article in The Atlantic magazine that supported the unmasking of children. Bellamy brushed off his discussion.

The U.K., Ireland, all of ScandinaviaFrance, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy have exempted kids, with varying age cutoffs, from wearing masks in classrooms. There are no more outbreaks in those schools than in American schools.

Even the World Health Organization does not recommend masks for children ages 6 to 11 because of the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.”

Many argue that student masking has done more harm than good to students, especially the youngest.  Board President Bellamy and her policy of masking students has led to emotional stress, anxiety, fear, aggression, and depression among students. Masks have severely impacted the language, emotional, and social development of many children, effects that will be long lasting It will be very difficult to remediate these harmful effects. 

The stunted learning that been the result of masking is especially harmful to minority and low-income students, a legacy of Bellamy and the majority of the school board, which have widened the achievement gap in an already failing district.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Miss Suzanne. We love your guts, miss integrity or no the ladies union has its speaker of there house. Ma’am I am surprised they have not taken your app away thank for giving the citizens the truth. Must read must read must read Suzanne for governor integrity.

  2. I emailed Dena Bishop and thanked her for pursuing the parents choice option again. I pray she isn’t met with resistance again.

  3. I think it is long overdue for Anchorage voters, most especially the parents of school-age children, to vote in favor of a mandate that the current School Board members be forced to permanently wear masks themselves — preferably clown masks that are airtight.

  4. Governor Dunleavy needs to instruct his Chief Medical Officer to issue a statement declaring that “the science” has changed regarding facemasks. Facemasks on children leads to great emotional & physical trauma to kids. Even Governors in Blue States such as New Jersey & Connecticut can sense the winds of change and have ended this barbaric symbolism. Grow a set, Gov!

  5. Bishop and the School Board have played quite the little game on this. First time around, Bishop mandated masks and the School Board said they couldn’t challenge or even discuss the decision. When that mandate expired, the School Board stepped in and issued their own mandate. When that mandate expired, Bishop once again issued the current one. My prediction is that the School Board steps in once again and extends it to the end of the school year. Quite the convenient little game, asking us to look at the bright shiny object in one hand while they extend that mandate with the other. Cheers –

  6. What is so sacrosanct about February 28th? Superintendent Bishop & Board, remove children’s masks immediately starting February 22–next school day. You own it.

  7. Thank you so much Deena Bishop, I can only imagine how difficult it has been to be in yours shoes during this very unsettling time we have been and continue to be in..Especially when you have others aposing you at every turn. You definitely deserve a few medals for sure! Blessings to you!

  8. A highly appropriate choice. If the board can’t see that, the board should be replaced. Read the room. Get out front. CDC will very likely come to a similar decisions this coming week. The President will also make this call in the State of the Union address.

  9. Mr. Boyle and Suzanne
    Thank you for this article. I have voted against mask mandates, and I will continue to do so.
    Check out my statement against mandatory masking at the 2/8/22 board meeting during the last 15 minutes.
    Dave Donley
    School Board Member speaking only for myself and not the ASD or School Board.

  10. I am not even mentioning it to my daughter until it is FOR SURE. These adults have played just kidding twice already this school year. I also wonder why the 28th?There is no preparation needed. They just don’t put the masks on.

  11. I listened to a piece at The Hill where it was reported that CDC Director Walensky refused to give a straight answer to Congress on where the CDC guidance on masks was going. The history suggests that the CDC is still under the spell of the teachers unions. And the teachers unions almost totally run the ASD. This is an issue of control and whether the Left and the School Board will give up power. I predict they will have quite a battle among the Board members although probably not in public. It is clear, at least to me, that masks do little to affect the path of Covid. Requiring masks is intentional child abuse. It is shameful for adults to inflict such pain.

  12. Please fact check and cite evidence for your claims about masking policy and COVID spread in European schools. Many returned to stricter masking during omicron surges ‘https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/03/masks-for-school-students-mandatory-in-several-eu-countries , and the American Academy of Pediatricians still advises universal masking because of the evidence available that it decreases infections in schools. ‘https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-interim-pandemic-guidance-urges-in-school-learning-be-prioritized/

    • Rebekah Potter, time will show that masking of children has done more harm than it has prevented the spread of the China virus. Cloth masks and surgical masks do not prevent the spread. Even N95 masks do not work very well and they must be fitted to each individual. The virus is covered with lipid coating (oil) and the N in the N95 mask indicates the mask is permeable to oil. How many children have died from the China virus in Alaska? ZERO. There have been no Alaska deaths from the virus in the 0-29 age group. If you want to wear a mask or have your children wear a mask, then do so. But do not mandate ineffective masks for other’s children.

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