On the defense, Dr. Bishop extends school mask mandate. New dashboard “detail” on the way.

In a lengthy email sent today, Anchorage School District Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said she was extending the mask requirement for all district buildings.

“The total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days was 2,210 as of January 12,” Bishop wrote — explaining her decision to extend the mask mandate. Bishop also defended her previous December decision to provide for “parent-directed mask use,” which set off a firestorm of heated testimony given by exasperated students and employees at a subsequent meeting of the school board.

An interesting thing to note is that Bishop said in her email that the district is planning to include a new dashboard detail that will allow parents to see COVID-19 cases in grade level bands in schools. Bishop claims this change will reduce the number of paper notices that go home while providing real-time access for families.

Dr. Bishop also wrote that it was possible there could be a return to temporarily suspended bus routes if staffing shortages impact the district’s ability to provide transportation.

In any event, Dr. Bishop’s email to families can be read below, and don’t worry — the CDC uber fan will enter into retirement soon enough.

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I hope this bi-monthly update finds you well. I start by thanking our ASD staff at all levels for continuing education for our young people. I see education as essential in our society. School is important for children, and family/community partnership in your schools is important as well. We need your support—read with your children, ask them questions, review their homework, and surround them with as much love as possible.

Many staff at the district administration offices have been substituting in schools when needed, myself included. From my first-hand knowledge, I continue to share that our employees are doing amazing things every day. A note that a teacher sent me exemplifies this the most. It was from her first-grade student who wrote, “Dear mom, dad, and Hannah, I hope you know I love you and that I hope you do too. I encourage you to do hard things, and to do smart and creative things.”

Teachers and other school personnel are doing hard, smart, and creative things right now to keep our schools open for students. The dedication that has been given by ASD employees during this time of staff shortages and overall COVID-stress in our community is exceptional. When you have a chance, thank your child’s school team for all they do!

Changing topics to our COVID-19 mitigation plan, at this time, the mask requirement for all ASD buildings will extend. The total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days was 2,210 as of January 12. For context, this number was hovering close to 100 when my decision was initially made last month to provide for parent directed mask use.

As mentioned in my previous update, ASD will follow new CDC guidelines and reduce the length of time to stay home from 10 days to five days for those testing positive for COVID-19. Schools have received questions on this, so I’d like to clarify:

• If a student or employee tests positive, they must stay home five days after their first symptom or positive test, whichever is earlier.
• After five days, the student or employee may return to school or work when they have not had a fever in 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine and as long as other symptoms are improving.

Please reference the ASD At Home COVID-19 Health Screening for Parents and Guardians document for a complete guide on what to do if your child is sick or is experiencing symptoms and guidelines for when students are permitted to return to school.

Additionally, similar to our State movement away from tracking negative tests, shifts will be made in the administrative tasks for school nurses. ASD is planning to include new dashboard detail that will allow parents to see COVID-19 cases in grade level bands in our schools, reducing the paper notices that go home. This new practice provides real-time access for you and allows our nurses to focus on the health of students and staff in school.

Another possibility in the coming days may be a return to temporarily suspended bus routes. As a courtesy to families, the Transportation Department has prepared a cohort of transportation routes that could transition into a three-week suspension period should COVID-19 staffing shortages impact transportation. This is contingency planning–please know the Administration aspires to continue normal service.

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