Anchorage superintendent: COVID 'killing our children in more ways than one' - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Anchorage superintendent: COVID ‘killing our children in more ways than one’

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Superintendent of Anchorage Public Schools Deena Bishop told the school board this week that the distance learning program implemented by the school district is failing students.

“We are not doing a good job of educating our young people with distance delivery,” she said. The decision that was made last Monday to not return to the classroom was based off of Anchorage being in the highest risk category for COVID-19 spread.

“The mission of our school district is to prepare our students for success,” she said. “We are not meeting that mission.”

But her hands are tied as a superintendent. The teacher’s union is in control of when students return. If teachers refused to come back, the schools cannot open.

“I saw the AEA (Anchorage Eduction Association) survey as an honest assessment of where our staff was. About one quarter of them, for personal reasons, do not want to begin. The 76 percent or so that had some trepidation or none at all — I see that as favorable,” Bishop said.

Bishop said she, too, has trepidation about being in public areas every day, such as stores or offices. But she says she is vigilant about her mask usage, her hand sanitization, and her social distancing.

“Being laissez faire is not what we’re asking for. What we’re asking for is to meet our mission. And prior to last Monday I did have support of state officials, and there was caution given with the rapid increase. Hence the postponement was made.”

Anchorage schools, she said, will not return to being in a “medium risk” status for a year, she said.

“We cannot wait a year to educate our children in buildings.”

She paused for several seconds. Her voice broke inside her masked face: “This is passion in my voice … I’m letting you know COVID is killing our children in more ways than one. We need to stand for children today.”

That sentiment was reinforced by a parent interviewed by Must Read Alaska this week, who said her children have never been contacted by their public school teacher for two of their classes since the start of the school year in August.

This parent MRAK interviewed is using the Anchorage School District’s “Canvas” distance learning application, which allows the parent to oversee the progress of his or her child,.

“We haven’t been introduced, we don’t know what the teachers look like — and these are core classes, math science, social studies,” the parent said.

Last week, the district announced that in-person learning in classroom would have to wait, although it had been set to resume in October. Schools have been closed since March and Anchorage is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 positive cases this fall.

School board member Andy Holleman, however, came to the union’s defense and said that opening the schools could lead to COVID-19 spreading throughout the community at a faster pace, putting the entire community at risk.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • As part of an essential industry working harder than ever through this, I say to high paid teachers: suck it up or leave. Wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to sit around and collect paychecks for doing nothing? Terms of employment-work or be fired.

    • define high paid.

      • Alaska Teacher Salary and Incentives Alaska is one of the top-three highest paying states for teachers, with elementary school teachers earning an average salary of $73,220 and secondary school teachers earning an average of $80,550. Learn more about teacher salaries.

  • The ASD and teachers union are ridiculous. They act like we are in the middle of ground zero. They pay no attention to the international data on schools that never closed or closed temporarily and re-opened. Below is a link to an interview of three public health professors from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford:

  • Thank you , Deena Bishop for speaking out . These children MUST return to school . Measures can and will be taken to ensure safety . OR cancel
    The teacher’s paychecks . And lower my property taxes !!
    Cannot understand though why the teachers have the final say. Are they stayin “at home”
    Not going out to the store or shopping or socializing . Probably not …

    • We live in Tok, our school has been open since Aug 20th and not
      One case! Our school put a lot
      Of work and thought into how they could do this safely. These kids are
      So happy! They don’t care about the masks! Alaska is a challenge, but Alaskans are also up for the challenge! We have the BEST teachers who truly care about the well being of all these kids! It can be done safely! If their not going to open your schools then the funding should go to the parents! You are the ones doing all the work, providing “the classroom” heat, lights, and food! Praying for all of you fighting for your kids?

  • They are letting this virus create havoc in the education of the school children. I do not have children in the system but a grandchild just starting and not being given the opportunity to learn and grow. You must not be afraid if this and allow it to control your every move. Either open the schools or refund the property taxes to the homeowners.

  • And the teachers still want full pay and rate increases. BS

  • The children are not at any risk and the risk to the teachers is so slim as to be ridiculous. This is all part of the plandemic. I’m not buying it. COVID prevention and cures are well known. Need to get alternatives up and running ASAP. Why buy into a false narrative ?

    • Can anyone PLEASE point to a case of community spread inside a school building where a child infected another child or a teacher? I can’t find one anywhere. I know it should probably exist, given the huge amount of people in the world. And I’d expect it to be reported because it fits the fear narrative.

      We don’t believe drugs are effective AT ALL unless there are double-blind studies, but we shut down schools over a theory with scant or no supporting data?

      • That evidence does not seem to exist.

        In April, French researchers did an epidemiological study of 1,340 teachers, staff and students (510 students from six primary schools) in the town of Crepy-en-Valois, northeast of Paris. The study, published in June 2020, concluded that children did not pass the virus to other children or teachers or staff.

        A study of 2000 students and teachers was carried out in Saxony, Germany. Out of 2,045 blood samples from 13 schools, only 12 samples were found to contain Covid-19 antibodies. Corona cases were confirmed in three schools, but researchers did not find antibodies in any other teachers or students at those schools… In fact Professor Reinhard Berner, director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine of the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, suggested that “children may even act as a brake on infection” because infections in schools didn’t cause an outbreak, and spread within households was lower than predicted.

        A study in New South Wales, Australia, published in The Lancet Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, showed that showed transmission rates in schools and early childhood centers were minimal, particularly between children and from children to adults. In fact the lead researcher Kristine Macartney said ““COVID-19 transmission in schools appears to be considerably less than that seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.”

        Additionally, a commentary published in Pediatrics journal in July concludes that children infrequently transmit COVID-19 to each other or to adults, and that schools can and should reopen.

        That’s not to say that students absolutely can’t pass the virus, but according to “the science” the chances are vanishingly small.

  • “‘The mission of our school district is to prepare our students for success,’ she said. ‘We are not meeting that mission.’ “.
    This is your fault, Madam Superintendent.
    You’re in charge. You’re responsible. You’d take credit if things were good. So (wo)man up and take the lumps for helping to grow a bureaucratic behemoth, nationally recognized among the most overpriced and worst performing.
    Apparently your part of Alaska’s education racket is, by your own admission, fails to produce literate, patriotic, employable Americans.
    Yet you and your merry union-management team dare to blame China flu for your problems! Yes, “team”. Do you think we’re too stupid to recognize poorly done theater when we see it?
    Sadly, we’re not qualified to judge the magnitude of what you and your union-management team are doing to Anchorage school children, so we never made a law to protect children from educational malfeasance and, given our uber-Left Assembly ideology, such a law is not likely to happen.
    Yes, you and your union are safe from accountability, Madam Superintendent. But… when you finally realize what you lot have done to generations of Anchorage school children, it probably won’t be fun to be you.
    And that’s punishment we wish on nobody.

    • ASD made a mistake by not hiring Steven Atwater. He’s the best superintendent I know.

    • Superintendents are not members of the teachers union. The problems with outcomes in public education are as much a reflection on society as they are with education leadership. Your analysis of this situation is not valid and is not based on all the information at hand.

  • Almost all Alaska schools, including Anchorage schools, have been doing an unacceptable job even before the Chinese flu according to standardized test results. Therefore, even a cute and compelling superintendent speaks from a credibility deficit. Who is fooling whom here?

  • While I dislike making statements about a group of people, my perception is that teachers are generally more risk-adverse than people in other occupations. Staff fear is going to remain a significant barrier to a return to in-person instruction for a long time. And for some, it will never be “safe” enough.

  • I appreciate the sentiment from Superintendent Bishop. I hope she follows through and puts a new plan on the table to get kids back into the classroom…otherwise the “passion” she voiced is just an empty gesture.

  • Get kids in school now! Stop homeschooling and internet substitution for classrooms.

  • Covid isn’t killing our children. The union is. Vote for more democratic union supporters. See how much better education gets! HA!

  • They won’t even go back to the schools, even with children at home on the other end of a data connection, the reason, they still have to share bathrooms with other teachers and that’s a potential source of COVID spread……… really!

    Good job our grocery store clerks are made of sterner stuff, we’d be up the proverbial creek if teachers worked for Costco et al. It’s about time public employees took a pay cut, better still fire the lot, and deal with them how Regan dealt with the Air Traffic Controllers.

  • The principal at Rabbit Creek Elementary School, Kristina Peterson, told her staff that she alone will determine student distancing and if teachers want acrylic barriers they will have to pay for them themselves! Is that any way for ASD to treat our children. Totally delusional and irresponsible.

  • First and foremost, Bishop’s comments about the children are heartbreaking. If you don’t feel great sadness for the kids, you must be worse than a liberal. Second, the derogatory comments about the teachers are idiotic. If you ever spent time in an Anchorage school it would be obvious that they are, with a rare exception, devoted to improving the minds of their students. I challenge you to spend a full day in a classroom with 30 fourth graders and not scream obscenities or cry in frustration. Admit it, you couldn’t even help a kid with algebra homework. Third, express appreciation for the President’s leadership on covid. He told us it would all disappear in April, like a miracle. It’s sad that democrats keep infecting people, killing more than 210,000, just to make President Trump look weak in an election year. But he has discovered the cure, so it’s time for schools to reopen. Do not be afraid—our President has the cure that will not only kill the virus, but make you feel 20 years younger.

  • The fantabulous clue light flickers slowly on for Deena Bishop. Congratulations.

    Outcome of all this? Put control of ed money as close to the student as humanly possible, which means vouchers are in our very near future. Cheers –

  • Is there a reason we cannot Open the schools to ” half” ?. ie If you wanna home school , your perogative. If you or your child needs the “school atmosphere” send them. Measures can be taken.
    Just like all the retail people who worked tirelessly stocking the shelves, cleaning and making sure John Q. PUBLIC and his family had food at the stores .

    Teachers make sure these children get their education.
    I agree there are extenuating circumstances but let’s get on the bandwagon of education. Find out what will work and what won’t for your particular lifestyle . Let’s do “baby steps” .

    If we cannot do it like the rest of the people and businesses have done then let’s shut the whole state down until we ” flatten the curve.”

  • The superintendent tells it like it is. The teachers’ union is no friend to children. They represent teachers whose main concern is for themselves. Are there teachers who don’t feel that way? I’m sure there are but they are a minority and outvoted. Finally, let’s work to defeat board members who appear to be in the pocket of the union and pray for the children that somehow they are able to succeed dispute the disadvantages. Let’s take this opportunity to rethink the concept of public service unions.

  • Maybe this will help our test scores go up as the school district is a failure to the kids and has been for quite some time.

  • I believe our students should be back in school and that the students should go back at least one year in grade school to make up for all they have lost.

    I too believe that if a Teacher does not want to teach they should be relieved of their duty and replaced with a Teacher that is prepared and willing to teach.

    In Districts that have open we find that not all parents are willing to send their students back to school and are opting for 100% remote or Homeschool, this decision helps the district not to have to hire as many teachers and does make more space for the social distancing that is required. It is very expensive to have the students in the schools with all the mitigation, sanitization, and PPE equipment but then children are our most valuable asset and well worth every dime.

    If it is not safe to have students in school why are they doing physical contact sports but cannot be in school learning. I do know that the hockey team has been hit with COVID but parents are still willing to let their students play, so let the parents and students decide if they want to be in school. Forget about the UNION and TEACHERs and find ones that are willing to Teach.

  • Poor, poor school district. Down 5,000 students. Deena Bishop knows her jobs on the line. Time for this State, this Municipality to stand up and take the cuts, which are decades overdue.

  • Teaching kids to live in fear is total bull. I would encourage every parent that works with their hands to take their kids to work with them and teach them a skill. Sitting in a room with a computer is no life for a kid. Better they learn something and spend some time with the folks. They will be sharper, learn problem solving and will get to know their parents on a level they would never be able to know otherwise.

    • For a generation or more they have taught kids to live in constant fear of guns, fire, strangers, bicycles, colds, hoses and feeling bad about losing. We call them snowflakes (the Chinese call them strawberries by the way, because they are very fragile and bruise easily). These are not the people who faced across trenches and won wars; no, these are compliant little drones who always wear their masks and scrub their hands three times an hour. At least most of them, some of us still raise kids to face their fears, get dirty and succeed. The kids in our town started school on time.

  • Yeah….. children not being in the building is nothing more than a revenue drop; has nothing to do with education. Less revenue equals less teachers and pink slips. One would think the union would have taken this into consideration.

  • Stop blaming and take action, so tired of Democrat/Republican bs in everything. Blame this and that but not take ownership of own actions. Wear a mask or dont, that won’t change much because people gonna do what they will, even if that causes more harm then good.

    The right always talks about being patriotic but won’t acknowledge that their message is killing fellow Americans every day. And doing a simple thing will most definitely curtail the pandemic and restore our Great country to some kind of normalcy but just won’t do it, because of some false sense of duty and liberty…. and you call The Right liberal.

    If everyone would do simple things for other people, we would be the greatest country on earth but till then well suffer as a divided nation of selfish a-holes.

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