The Anchorage School Board meets Monday in executive session at 4 pm, and in regular open session at 6 pm. The issue of the superintendent of schools removing the mask mandate when children return to campus in January may come up as a last-minute item at the regular meeting.
The board has received over 50 email public comments, with many of them asking the board to overrule the superintendent in her decision to make masks optional across the district.
Mail-in comments can be sent to the board through this link: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/1443
Sample of the public comments received include these chosen at random:
“My issue with the removal of the mandatory masking policy in our schools is the process by which it occurred. The super-authority granted to the superintendent to make these sorts of changes without school board input was created so that in the case of an emergency immediate action could be taken. No such emergency existed on Thursday, December 16. Covid-19 circumstances did not suddenly require unilateral action from the superintendent; Dr. Bishop should have briefed the school board of her proposed change, sought feedback, and allowed discussion.
I hope that whoever replaces our current superintendent is more respectful of the board, and that she or he will not abuse the power of the office to achieve an agenda that may or may not be in the best interest of our students. – Andrew Gray
My children do not need masks. They have more complications with wearing them such as bloody noses and asthma. They also have already had Covid and have immunity. It is a parents job to deem what is medically necessary for their children not the school board.
You are not to deem what is medically necessary for people’s children, only parents have the right for that. My kids have had Covid and have immunity. Masks are causing more harm to my children such as giving them constant bloody noses, headaches and asthma. I will pull them from school to place in private school as will many other parents and the ASD will lose even more funding. – Katherine Lucier
From direct observation of young children in my position leading nature hikes, the children are not bothered by wearing face masks. Many seem to prefer keeping them on even walking outside. Please keep in mind that many children are not vaccinated, and even if they are, they can carry the virus. Our incredible hard working school staff and teachers do not deserve to have the well being of themselves and their families compromised. Covid rates may be temporarily dipping, but the confusion of switching policies and the ongoing mutations of the virus make the action of unmasking in schools dangerous at best. With respect for the Superintendent, please consider overriding her dictate. – Sue May
It makes no sense to stop mandatory masking in schools for the spring semester- our health system is still trying to recover and masks have been shown to allow the spread of COVID19. Omicron is sweeping the nation, and with much higher infection rates we could see a significant uptick in cases. Lifting this policy now, only to reinstate it after we’re in a new world of hurt is very shortsided and not evidence based. Our schools have thousands of students and hundreds of teachers, the effect on the wider community is massive. Please continue to require masking in our schools. – Laura Herman
With rates of COVID doubling weekly in the Lower 48, schools closing, states enacting mask mandates and multiple hospitals reaching max capacity, now is NOT the time to end the mask mandate in our schools. Anchorage hospitals went on crisis care mode already – and that was before omicron.
Our three kids think it is SO much better than returning to online schooling. Students and staff are used to it now.
Please reverse Bishop’s poorly timed decision and keep masking in our schools, for all our sakes. – Kristiann Maclean
I am writing as a concerned Anchorage parent of two elementary school students in ASD and a community member. I was distressed to read the December 15 communication about the Superintendent’s desired transition to “parent-informed masking.” We should leave the public health decisions to public health professionals. For the younger students in our district, vaccination rates are very low (14%); masks are a proven way to minimize virus spread. Without masks, spread will be a problem and we will be back to closing classrooms and schools which is very disruptive to learning and family work schedules.
Students are already used to mandatory masking. I volunteer in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom and have been impressed with the normalcy of masking even among our youngest students. Making a rule that is not for everyone will be confusing for young children, and will put our vulnerable children and households at risk. Our kids have an immunosuppressed father and it feels much more stressful and risky to send them into school without masks.
The timing of this possible shift is also very distressing. Many families travel for holidays – bringing everyone back together again without masking is not appropriate or safe. The omicron variant is causing countries, universities, schools to fully close down. Removing our mask mandate at this time is very shortsighted and will have deadly impacts on our community. It is so distressing to so many of us in our community that these basic decisions about public health have become so politicized and so much misinformation is being spread. The guidance from health professionals is clear. Masks are an effective and easy tool to help control the spread of this deadly virus. Please protect our children, and our vulnerable family members, and all of us by keeping this mask mandate for our schools until such time as our rates and transmission is *low* (<5 / 100,000).
Thank you very much for your service and leadership. – Courtney Carothers, Parent of two elementary-aged students in ASD
As an ASD teacher assistant substitute working with an unvaccinated population in a pre-K classroom, I will no longer feel safe even though I am vaccinated. Pre-K students are very good at wearing masks, but don’t understand social distance. All these students will be more at risk if they contract covid. Also, as an effective assistant, I need to be close to them. Helping them open objects during lunch, getting outdoor gear on and off, working in small learning groups…we are always in close proximity. Mask wearing makes me feeler safer. With no mask mandate, I will have to step back from subbing. – Nancy Dunleavy
I am a mother with 4 children, 3 of which are enrolled in ASD. My older two have enjoyed a return to normal school year in middle and high school. We kept them home all of last year. My 3rd grader has recently been fully vaccinated and will return to school in January after having been home all first semester. My youngest child is not eligible for a vaccination and as a family we make great efforts and sacrifices to protect her from the virus.
The decision to make masks optional at this point does not make any sense whatsoever. Masks have been successful at keeping infections at bay in our schools. New variants are continuing to bludgeon our country and no one really knows what things will look like in two weeks, in a month, in two months. Why this decision was made this preemptively seems careless and ill advised.
Saying parents can make decisions on mask wearing for their child(ren) is ridiculous. Mask wearing is most effective if everyone wears a mask- and you all full well know this. Children will feel singled out and different if they are asked to mask and their own teachers or administrators aren’t even masking up, let alone their peers.
The community is tired of covid, yes. If numbers rise and more of our community falls ill and needs medical care then this will fall to the already overtaxed medical community to deal with. The school district should NOT contribute to this hardship in any way. Please make masking required of all staff, teachers and students in all ASD buildings. Thank you for your time, – Jolene Becke
I am writing in to vote for mask choice. This has gone on long enough. I am a kindergarten TA and see first hand how this is harming our children. I have three teenagers in the school district, and see the effects on those students as well. Vaccines are available for everyone who is in the system. Move on, please. – Monica Tovsen
Thanks to the school board and superintendent for calmly and intelligently working hard keeping our students safe during this pandemic.
Please keep doing the smart and safe thing by continuing the indoor mask policy that has been working so well. The vast majority our kids, including my own third grade son, think of indoor masking as an acceptable and reasonable way to protect themselves and others.
Please don’t take away that protection now as we enter the next phase of this pandemic with new and unknown threats related to the omicron variant.
Thank you again for all you do. The science-driven decisions you have made on behalf of our students and community have made this school year safer and more stable for all of Anchorage.
Keep up the good work by continuing to follow the science and public health recommendations. – Jimael Johnson
Mother of current ASD student
School board members: Thank you for your time and for hearing my concerns. I strongly disagree with the operational guideline from Dr. Deena Bishop that would make masks optional in ASD schoolsbeginning January 3, 2022. Why? Who benefits from this? Whose needs are being met here? Does this decision prioritize the best outcomes for all children and our community?
Health experts report a likely approaching wave of cases due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Furthermore, many families will be returning from travel after the holidays and/or will have been engaging with families and friends locally. I’ve heard that cases did not rise after Thanksgiving break, and this was cited as a reason to make masks optional. But masks were STILL REQUIRED in ASD buildings after Thanksgiving which may be one reason cases didn’t rise. Also, that break is shorter. Using that data for the Winter Break situation is flawed.
I am a parent of two children in ASD schools – a kindergartener and a second grader, the latter has asthma. Our family has been very COVID-cautious, because of my son’s asthma and because we have an infant at home. This decision for mask-optional gives us two terrible options: go to school where some people will be unmasked (even though my kids will mask, it isn’t very effective if others are not) or stay at home and transition to ASD virtual. My kids stayed virtual all last year (to protect our newborn) and were so happy to go back to school. I will have to make a decision to prioritize either my children’s physical health or their mental health. Why must we choose?
This timing is terrible. The proximity to Winter Break is poor, as I mentioned earlier. If we must change policy, why not give it two weeks to allow any travel cases to be identified, and then implement mask optional right after Martin Luther King, Junior day? Wouldn’t that be wise?
Also, for any family who wishes to vaccinate their 5-11-year-olds against COVID but have not yet done so for any reason, two weeks notice is not enough time for them to receive a full cycle of the vaccine and build adequate immunity. Why the rush? Why so little notice? Why such terrible timing, when we should be taking a break instead of scrambling to decide what to do for next semester?
Recently, I was speaking to an elder in a predominately Inupiat village in Northwest Alaska. (I am not using his name as he did not give express permission.) His village has been extremely careful and has had very few cases and none serious. When I remarked on this, he explained how the most important priority for them was to protect and care for the elders and the children. They’ve been so careful that even vaccinated people will often quarantine after travel, at an inconvenience to themselves.
Listen to your elders. Put the needs of children first, not political pressures or perceived inconvenience. Do the right thing. Alter this policy to give more time for cases to appear after break and for more children to get vaccinated, or better yet, keep the current mandate in place for third quarter and re-visit for fourth.
With gratitude and faith in your good sense and care for others, – The Rev. Lisa Smith Fiegel (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Denali Montessori mom and PTSA board member
Please support Superintendent Bishop in allowing parent-informed masking when we return to school in January.
Transmission numbers in Anchorage are trending down and the Municipality of Anchorage’s (MOA) emergency order has been lifted. COVID-19 testing now shows a downward trend and cases in schools have remained low as well.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been readily available to all school-aged children for several months now, and the booster is available for those 16 and older.
Summer school was a success when masking was not required, and I know it will be a success for the rest of the school year.
Thank you for doing what is best for our children by allowing masking to be a choice! – Rachelle Pessetto
The Superintendent’s decision to make masks optional after winter break appears to be short sighted. European nations and US states on the east coast are seeing rapid growth in covid cases due to Omicron. We know that hospitalizations and deaths lag behind infections. Anchorage and Alaska just recently had record cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the Delta variant. We finally are trending downward in numbers largely due to increase in community mask use and an influx of over 400 health professionals to deliver care at our hospitals. I don’t understand how Dr. Bishop feels we are suddenly in the clear on this pandemic and can ditch masks in schools. Information available does not support it. We should continue to be proactive to keep our kids in school, not reactive and more disruptive to their learning environment. My kids don’t mind the masks, they want to be in school. We have heard of the difficulties finding enough bus drivers and substitute teachers. I have to wonder how ASD plans to keep in person class going when teachers and staff are unable to attend in person due to covid infections and there’s no backup personnel. I hope the school board will push back on this short sighted plan for optional masking. We can see the next wave coming if we just look past our feet. Thank you! – Alecia Rathlin
The school board meets at the Anchorage School District Education Center, 5530 E Northern Lights Blvd Anchorage, and it has allowed for limited seating due to its rule relating to Covid mitigation. The meeting can be watched, with great limitations, at the board’s YouTube channel, ASD-TV at https://www.youtube.com/user/AnchorageSD
I question the validity of these “letters”, just as I question the validity of MSM’s narrow-minded narrative they pushed so far. Most of what I see are helicopter moms that bought into the vax cult.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the School board and Superintendent would do some research and see how other states like TN is handling masks for students. In Mufreesboro Tn there are few cases of students having the Covid, masks are not required. For me, there is more contamination in mask wearing than not. People pull them up, pull them down. We find them all over the ground. It is just a matter of controlling the entire public. Freedom isn’t free in the country anymore.Furthermore, researchers like Dr. McCullough who posted a long interesting article on YTube about Covid had his information taken down. The article was mind boggling. So we now only have to be spoon fed what those on the left want us to swallow.
They could also simply ask Mat-Su School District, which is right next door.
Hollyweird demented souls are sporting masks 24/7 through the holidays.
But yet all the deviance they promote across the board goes full throttle neve rending.
Pop culture – through the medium of gun violence, rap, gangs, criminal, music culture, illegal, and legal drug promotion kills 10 times more than Covid and not a word! My Lord, when will they ever learn as the old song goes.
This sampling of comments appears to be a clear pattern of “Mass Formation”, a psychological phenomenon in which a very large portion of the society that previously has a high level of non-specific worries, that they can’t really say why they are so anxious, are given a reason to be worried and anxious and given a way to blame this worry on someone else. COVID has given jittery, left-wing nutbags like the people that wrote these comments a target to aim the blame for their worries at, COVID and those that are not afraid of COVID. They blame the unvaccinated, the unmasked, the people that actually have discernment, instead of finding out why they are so worried about everything all the time. They haven’t yet figured out the TV and modern media does almost nothing, but make people worry and directs their thoughts to events that are government-controlled and corporation-controlled activities. These people are the new Nazi supporters of any leader they hope will lock up the anti-maskers, the pro-vaccine-choicers. Heil, Pfizer! Heil, Biden! Hey, Dr. Zinke, Heil Dr. Fauci! Heil, the Anchorage Assembly! Heil, the Anchorage School Board! Start up the gas chambers and get rid of the free-thinking people that will not bow down! Gas them! Innoculate them against their will. Clamp a face mask on all of them or take away all their rights! You must save us!
Learn more about the Mass Formation phenomenon here- ‘https://principia-scientific.com/the-phenomenon-of-mass-formation/’
If you want your kids to enjoy free public education then mask they shall. You don’t get the right to make everybody else sick for selfish ideas. Masks are proven to defeat COVID. Vaccines are undeniably safe. Cry me river, you can’t breathe????? Please. Be a good patriot and put on your masks or drop out of school. The rest of us will be fine without you.
Masks defeat Covid?
Why on earth does anybody need a vaccine if masks are so effective?
Masks are PROVEN to defeat Covid? This is possibly the most stupid and clearly incorrect post on the topic ever.
If you are so afraid of Covid, you stay masked up and protect yourself from the rest of the world who are all out to get you.
Covid paranoia at its finest.
Please provide citations that support your statement that “Masks are proven to defeat Covid”. You will have difficulty. A naked opinion from the CDC is not persuasive. Most mask studies have serious limitations and qualifications.
Has the Anchorage School Board taken the time to listen to Dr. Carson that has more experience and expertise in the medical field? Why doesn’t the school board take the time to comprehend what Dr. Ben Carson and others of his caliber to interpret the ill use of masks for children as it affects their physical and mental development and health!!!!!
Greg, I appreciate you using your real name. Most of these people commenting are afraid to use their real names. So thank you. I would like you to read through this and consider these facts carefully-
Larry,what logical difference does it make if a person here openly uses their real name or not? Why do you feel that surrendering privacy does anything positive in the pursuit of honest debate? I must admit that I not only do not understand your argument, but I find it chillingly Orwellian.
Hello Larry. That wasn’t me posting. Half of the things posted on here under my name are made by clever hackers that have made duplicate accounts but it’s all good.
Well, that sucks, Greg!
Yes, now I can see that that first “Greg Forkner” is not you, by the different colored symbol attached to his post, which is not the same as yours that we normally see.
What childish games some love to play.
Masks defeat Covid? The stupid runs deep out there! Look at the recent case loads from New York, Einstein.
The only pandemic in history in which the large majority of ‘cases’ have to be determined not by symptoms, but by a test — a test that is known to be scientifically inaccurate and invalid as commonly used.
Just look at and listen to all the fearmongering propaganda from the power establishment and their shills in the corporate media — it’s all about so-called “cases”. Not deaths, not hospitalizations, but “cases”. Why? Well, because the number of ‘cases’, a figure that cannot be readily determined by independent sources, can be reported as whatever best suits the purposes of the power establishment.
1-a well orchestrated PR campaign
2-tell me again how Anchorage is a right of center town.
“As an ASD teacher assistant substitute working with an unvaccinated population in a pre-K classroom, I will no longer feel safe even though I am vaccinated.”
“school staff and teachers do not deserve to have the well being of themselves and their families compromised. ”
They’re forcing your children to live under their fear.
Yup, they are. I’ve managed to work at a school (not in Anchorage, of course) all this time without fear.
It is frightening to me how many parents wrote in about why they thought masks should still be required when school goes back in session after the holiday break. Frightening.
Here I’ve been thinking all the parents of kids still enrolled in schools which require masks had no other choice and weren’t willing to make necessary sacrifices to homeschool their kids. How naive I’ve been.
Homeschool. Your. Kids.
I can’t say it enough.
Homeschool. Your. Kids. Or your kids will be hanging around with other kids who have parents who can’t think for themselves…. Who can’t see what a detriment these mask requirements are to humankind and our environment. Probably the same kids who have to lead every conversation with what pronoun they identify with.
This is frightening.
My favorite argument is “the kids have gotten used to it.”
Most of my kids get used to running around outside with wet socks inside their wet boots during the winter.
I suppose that means it’s good for them, and I should encourage them to continue doing it.
I’m sure if I don’t look closely enough, they’ll suffer 0 negative consequences to their health.
Kids could get used to being chained to a basement wall if that’s all they know. Doesn’t make it healthy or right.
I note that there is little discussion of the science regarding masks in schools. It is my understanding that the CDC relies on a study from Arizona as a basis for the agency’s school mask recommendation. The Arizona study is deeply flawed and limited. Unless and until we stop offering opinions and start discussing science, this issue will remain political.
Ah, insufferable rabid Maskers pushing their neuroses on the whole town, how Merry.
Every Who down in Anchorage liked breathing a lot…
But the Maskers, who meddled through Anchorage did not!
The Maskers hate breathing, and faces, and freedom!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be their heads are not screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that their masks are too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
Is probably their hearts are two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason,
Their masks, or their hearts
They raged there on Solstice, despising what’s smart.
Your opinions would be better supported with multiple source verifications. Otherwise it is just a “feeling”.
Wearing a mask demonstrates your compliance. It has nothing to do with health.
If you took the first two clot shots, wear a mask, took the booster jab and still caught Covid you may feel stupid. Don’t worry – you are!
I don’t understand why so many people still have the false belief that common consumer masks do anything to prevent infection. The science is clear – they do not prevent infection. But the school board for some reason claims that masks prevent infection. Are they ignorant on the science, or are they lying?
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