While the Anchorage School District continues to require students to wear masks in order to attend classes, a grassroots movement is now urging parents to send their children to school unmasked beginning, Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The debate over masking young students has been a contentious issue, both in Alaska and around the nation, with opponents pointing out that children are overwhelmingly immune from serious illness related to Covid. In December Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop attempted to remove the mask mandate but was blocked by the school board. The current mask mandate has no expiration date.
In defending her initial Dec. 15 announcement that masks would be voluntary in 2022, Bishop said the number of positive cases in the district were very low. Bishop acknowledged that the issue is very divisive, but her decision was based on current case counts.
“As you can tell not everybody is on the same page,” she told the board. “Our community is very split on this.”
Just 40 miles north in the Mat-Su, the states second largest school district ditched its mask mandates on Jan. 31 after passionate and vocal parental opposition.
Across the nation, protests have unfolded with students walking into schools and refusing to cover their face. These efforts have occurred in Virginia, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere. Now, it appears set to happen in Anchorage.
“Enough is Enough. My child is going to return to school without a mask on February 22nd,” Carl Hiers posted to Facebook earlier this month.
He has created an online campaign, urging fellow Anchorage parents to take part in the protest.
“I hope you join me,” Hiers said. “They can send him home if they wish, or they can admit, that maybe this whole thing has both drawn on too long, and been blown way out of proportion. I’m fine with either at this point.”
As of Feb. 18, Hiers’ post listed 19 people as “going” and 16 “interested.”
According to the Anchorage School District website, there are 84 confirmed Covid cases as of Feb. 18. The school district includes 43,544 students and 5,833 employees. To date, there have been no reported deaths among Anchorage School District students since the onset of Covid.