Alaska school board members who decline to get a COVID shot are now banned from all in-person events held by the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB).
A recent letter from AASB Executive Director Lon Garrison said the organization believes the “safest way to offer in-person events is to require proof of vaccination.” Members who fail to do so are no longer permitted to attend academies and conferences, which comprise an essential part of what AASB provides for Alaska school board members and superintendents.
“I know some individuals will disagree with our decision, a decision that I, as executive director, recommended,” Garrison said. “I acknowledge and respect everyone’s unique perspective on the issue. Nonetheless, AASB, in its role as a governance and educational leader in Alaska has a responsibility to do all it can to ensure the safety of our members, staff, parents, communities, and students. Alaska’s public-school students depend on all of us. We have to balance that in conjunction with our mission to help school boards and their superintendents to understand their role in shared leadership and good governance.”
The AASB consists of more than 330 individual board members who are responsible for students who attend state-run public schools. Associate members include school superintendents, advisory school boards, the State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education and the Special Education Service Agency. A 15-member board of directors, consisting of 12 directors and four officers, governs AASB. This board is elected by membership at an annual conference.
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In making the decision to ban all non-vaccinated members from future in-person events, Garrison said the decision was a “tough” choice.
“As a former school board member, I know and understand the weight and impact of making hard choices and sharing in the responsibility for the good of the whole,” he said. “Therefore, I ask for your grace, your kindness, and your patience.”
His decision, however, makes no allowances for people who have already contracted the virus through natural infection, nor does it permit members to attend if they can show test results that they are virus free. Instead, all attendees – apart from those with an approved medical exemption – must submit proof of vaccination. Furthermore, all attendees – regardless of vaccination status – must wear a mask during any event, except when eating or drinking.
The new policy could present challenges going forward, as none of the four largest school districts in Alaska require vaccines for teachers or students. Among Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and Kenai, only the Anchorage School District requires district-wide masking.
To contact Executive Director Lon Garrison, call (907) 463-1660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.