Anchorage students may return in January free of mask mandate, but local pediatricians are trying to block it

Anchorage School Superintendent Deena Bishop advised parents on Thursday that when students return on January 3, 2022, wearing face masks will be optional. Face masks have been mandatory since the start of school this year.

Bishop, who announced her resignation in November with effect from June 30, 2022, said with Covid lowercase it was time to move on to business as usual.

But whether the school board will go along is another story. The board has received at least 50 emails from parents and pediatricians opposing the lifting of the mask mandate for students, and only about five emails from those who support it. At Monday’s meeting, the radical left board may take it upon themselves to push the superintendent aside.

Among those writing to demand continued masking of children is the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which wrote a letter to the board Friday, urging board members to continue the use of masks in schools because “it is It is imperative that we demand masks from our children in the environment where they spend most of their day.”

The pediatricians who are pro-mask may be convincing with the board, as they were with the Anchorage Assembly when they entered politics in October regarding masks.

The parents who have an opinion about lifting the mask mandate for children may want to make their voices heard before Monday’s board meeting. Letters can be sent to the board at: [email protected] and to Superintendent Bishop at [email protected].

The board meets at 4 p.m. in a board meeting and meets Monday at 6 p.m. in the public area. The public meeting can be viewed on the neighborhood’s YouTube channel here. Meetings are held in the Board Room of the ASD Education Center, 5530 E Northern Lights Blvd.

The pediatrician’s letter stated:

“We are writing to encourage the Anchorage School District to continue implementing the AAP guidelines for mask use in schools. As you know, vaccines are the most effective means we have to end the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the necessary protection in Anchorage at the moment. According to the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, the number of fully vaccinated 12-18 year olds in the Anchorage municipality is currently 53% and the number of fully vaccinated 5-11 year olds 14.3%; both figures are well below the national average for similar ages. With these facts in mind, it is imperative that we protect our children by requiring masks in the environment where they spend most of their day.

“The AAP clinical guidelines state that “mask wearing has been shown to be effective in reducing the transmission of viruses from infected individuals. . and that “a significant proportion of the student population has not yet been vaccinated. Masks provide protection against COVID-19 for unvaccinated students and reduce transmission.” In addition, newer variants have shown that they can continue to be spread by and to other vaccinated individuals, making masking a powerful tool to help protect the school community.

“We are not yet seeing an influx of the Omicron variant in Alaska, but we do see the continuing wave of the Delta variant. A concern shared by many is that many children will travel outside of Alaska for the winter vacation or host out-of-state visitors into their homes. School will resume on January 3, and potentially exposed children will return to class immediately after the holiday period. Since there are no travel test requirements, children with COVID-19 may return to class. It would be wise to add a layer of security and ensure that children are masked at school for at least several weeks after the winter break.

“Given the effectiveness of safety measures with consistent use, schools can remain open and safe for children. We know that children are at greater risk of mental health problems and developmental delays if they miss school due to COVID-19 illness or schools closed due to outbreaks. The best way to keep schools open with children in classrooms is to continue to use best safety practices, including universal masking of school-aged children.

“The full AAP guidelines on masking and school health can be found here: COVID-I9 Guidelines for Safe Schools (aaporg). The full document outlines both current concerns and full recommendations. We welcome you to contact our Alaska Chapter if you have any questions about current AAP guidelines.

Anna Ogena, MD, FAAP

Jody Button, MD, FAAP

Lily Lou, MD, FAAP

Kevin Kollins, MD, FAAP

Matthew Serna, MD, FAAP

Patti Clay, MD, FAAP

Benjamin Westley, MD, FAAP

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