The Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District said masks will be optional in schools when they open this fall.
Schools, which open Aug. 17, will continue with a “symptom-free” protocol (don’t go to school if you are sick), enhanced cleaning, air handling, and other measures, but will not force masks on children or staff.
The school board heard from about 140 parents who wrote emails on the topic, and more than a dozen who spoke at Monday’s night’s school board meeting. The board left it for Superintendent Clayton Holland to decide how best to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the contagious virus that is raging across the globe.
“Human connection is vital to our students,” Holland said, and masks interfere with that connection.
Observers of the meeting said there is an overall change of tone for the better at the school district.
“They are at least listening to conservatives now,” one parent said.
Holland said that where there is local authority, such as tribal authority, he will leave the decision to the local school leaders.
He cited that when the district had mask mandates last year, not a single student in the Russian “Old Believer” schools attended school, Holland said. Holland said he would allow those decisions to be made locally in remote communities.
The previous Kenai superintendent John O’Brien favored the mask mandate.
Anchorage Superintendent Deena Bishop has said students and staff in Alaska’s largest city will have to wear masks when school starts. The same policy is in effect in Juneau, where they are masking.