Students, parents in the Mat-Su Borough School District protest on both sides of the mask-wearing debate

Students and parents gather to protest against wearing masks in school, and others protest at...
Students and parents gather to protest against wearing masks in school, and others protest at the same time in favor of masks on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 at Mat-Su Career & Tech High School in Wasilla, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 6:38 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:29 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Students and parents in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District on both sides of the mask-wearing debate were out protesting Tuesday morning. There was an anti-mask protest at Mat-Su Career & Tech High School and at the same time, others at the school were protesting in favor of wearing masks.

“We need the teachers, the doctors, the school boards to say ‘no mask,’” said Domonic Harper, a parent. “If somebody wants to wear a mask, wear a mask. But I’ll say it again, we know the masks cause harm.”

Harper is a concerned parent who believes masks get in the way of learning and do not prevent people from getting COVID-19. Alaska health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to support face coverings as an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus between people.

Others at the protest Tuesday support masks in schools. Both Glenda Root and Riley Anes go to Career & Tech High School and were out protesting the anti-mask protest.

“The Mat-Su valley is one of the least vaccinated parts of Alaska, yet we are one of the only boroughs that do not require masks,” said Root, a senior at the school. “And I feel like if we require masks and actually stick with the mitigation plan it would help a lot of our immune-compromised people at home.”

“If you actually do your research on that you can go online and you can see, doctors say masks are only ineffective if you don’t use them properly or if you’re not using a good mask,” said Anes, who is also a senior.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani said the school district’s goal is to find a balance and help keep the kids and staff safe. The district’s current mitigation plan, approved by the school board, recommends masks but does not require them when schools are in the low-risk level. When schools move into the medium-risk level, the mitigation plan states that masks “may be required” in an affected classroom or in the entire school.

“It’s a very large district, and so there’s many many viewpoints, and perspectives on masks,” Traini said. “Some folks think they should be mandatory at all times and other people think they should never be on a student or staff member ever. And we’re really trying to strike a balance between those two portions of our community and meet people where they’re at while trying to keep the learning environment as safe as possible.”

Trani said in the schools that are at the yellow or medium-risk alert level, which means there are outbreaks or an increase in virus transmission, he hasn’t seen much of a problem getting students and staff to wear their masks.

When schools move into the red, or high-risk level, they are closed to in-person education.

The Mat-Su School Board is meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and Trani said there will be public discussion where he believes they will hear from people on both sides of the issue.

Currently, there are now 10 Mat-Su schools at the yellow alert level, according to the MSBSD COVID-19 Mitigation Plans and Data Hub. Two schools, Butte Elementary School and Glacier View School, are closed and have transitioned to online learning for the time being — one due to an outbreak at the school and the other due to community transmission.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of student Glenda Root’s name.

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