ASD superintendent recommends indoor masking requirement for fall school year

Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 8:06 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 7:35 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a letter to Anchorage School District employees and families Saturday evening, Superintendent Deena Bishop released her recommendations for the upcoming school year. Bishop told Alaska’s News Source earlier this week these decisions were tough to make.

The recommended mitigation plan would require masking indoors, with some exceptions. This applies to all people entering all ASD schools and buildings. Outdoor masking would be optional. Students experiencing symptoms will be asked to stay home and get tested.

Bishop said cleaning and disinfecting will continue as it has including regular cleaning of busses, classrooms and offices, with hand sanitizer readily available. She also said upgraded HVAC systems will allow for better ventilation and air flow.

Vaccine clinics will continue. Eligible students will be able to receive the vaccine with parental consent, according to the letter. Following new guidance from the CDC, fully vaccinated students and employees experiencing no symptoms will not have to quarantine after coming in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person.

In the letter, Bishop stated the mitigation plan centers on keeping students in school while keeping them safe.

“These past few weeks I have gathered information, heard from parents and staff, and spoken with experts,” Bishop wrote. “The science tells us the new variant is highly contagious, is circulating around the globe, and is at a high rate in our community.”

Corey Aist, president of the Anchorage Education Association, said that while people have varying opinions when it comes to masks, the ultimate goal is to get kids back into the classroom.

“It’s a no-win decision, but defaulting to safety is probably gonna keep everyone learning, and I think that’s the most important thing,” he said. “It’s a thing our educators want to ensure (that) we’re all gonna be going into it trying to keep everyone healthy.”

On Monday, Alaska’s News Source spoke to some ASD parents about the mask requirement, and it appears that many of them remain split on the idea.

“I think it’s really up to the parents to choose whether or not to mask their students (kids), and putting a mask on say an older child might be easier if that’s what they want to do — but it’s a lot more difficult for the younger students to choose to wear that, especially because they don’t know hygiene practices,” said Nikki Rose, a parent of an ASD student.

“I think after the emotional disadvantages that it’s proven to have on our children this past year, I just believe that through the pros and cons it’s just time to end these mandates and allow children to be children,” said Chelsea Pohland, another parent of an ASD student.

In Alaska, the statewide alert level remains high as COVID-19 continue to rise across communities in the state. On Monday, the state reported that over 300 resident and nonresident cases were confirmed in Anchorage over the weekend, while 751 were identified throughout the state.

Bishop will present the mitigation plan to the school board at their next meeting set for Tuesday. Public testimony will be taken during the meeting which people must sign up for in advance at the board’s website.

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