ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The superintendent of Alaska’s largest school district says she has no intention to reexamine a policy requiring students and staff to wear masks indoors even though the new mayor of Anchorage has urged the district “immediately reconsider” the plan.
“Having schools open and students learning and engaging with peers is of the highest priority to me,” Superintendent Deena Bishop said in a statement Monday.
She added that according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “properly masked students will not be required to quarantine if deemed a close contact. My goal is to provide a high quality education to students and in order to do this, the schools need to keep their doors open. Masking helps us accomplish this goal.”
Mayor Dave Bronson, who took office July 1, has opposed COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates and criticizing the city’s previous restrictions was a central part of his mayoral campaign platform, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Bronson in a social media post last Friday said he is against “mandates masking our residents and children.”
“Anchorage residents should be free to make their own decisions about their health care, about their families, and about their children’s education,” Bronson said. “Therefore, I strongly oppose the Anchorage School District’s back to school mask mandate and strongly encourage them to immediately reconsider.”
The Anchorage School Board last week approved Bishop’s COVID-19 mitigation plan, which includes requiring masks for everyone, in most cases, inside the district’s buildings as of this week. Approval came after hours of testimony, which the Daily News reported was largely from people opposing the masking mandate. Classes start next Tuesday.
The CDC has recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Bishop in announcing the school district’s COVID-19 plan cited the CDC guidance, a rising number of cases in Anchorage and the highly contagious delta variant that is driving up infections in many parts of the U.S.