Protesters stand outside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin building in Soldotna on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Protesters stand outside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin building in Soldotna on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Parents divided on masks

Some parents said they will keep their kids home if masks are required; others say they’ll keep their kids home if masks aren’t required.

Parents were divided about whether or not the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District should require masks as part of its COVID-19 mitigation plan during testimony given at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Changes to the plan were presented in a work session prior to the board’s regular meeting, which was held in the Homer High School auditorium.

As of Tuesday, 16 of the district’s 42 schools were operating with universal masking in place. That’s in addition to two schools that were operating 100% remotely. In schools where universal masking is in place, fewer students are required to quarantine after being identified as close contacts.

Some parents who testified Monday said they will keep their kids home if masks are required, while others say they’ll keep their kids home if masks aren’t required.

Brie Drummond, who said she has two children in Homer schools, said Monday that she is “frustrated” with the lack of universal masking policies in schools and that she worries about her kids getting sick when she sends them to school in the morning. Drummond said she already missed a week of work this month after her son’s kindergarten class was sent home due to a positive case.

“My husband and I have been discussing which one of us will quit our jobs if this continues,” Drummond said. “It puts an incredible stress and strain on our families and I know we’re not alone in this in our community.”

Misty Anderson, a parent from Seward, spoke in opposition of masks, which she referred to as “face diapers,” and said students are being sent home “unnecessarily” because of the district’s Symptom-Free School protocol.

“We were told before the school year started that face masks would be optional,” Anderson said. “If it makes someone feel safer wearing one, then do so, but this should not be pushed on all kids.”

The debate came after an afternoon work session in which district administrators shared revisions to the COVID-19 mitigation plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Among other things, the revisions outline criteria used to determine when a school moves in and out of universal indoor masking for staff and students.

A “conversation” between district administrators and school site administrators is triggered when a school district meets four out of five criteria outlined in the plan. Factors considered include a school community positivity rate of 3% or higher, a student absenteeism rate of 25% or higher, local and regional hospital and ICU capacity, a community’s COVID-19 case count per 100,000 people and the impact of a schools staff absenteeism rate.

Plan revisions also clarified that masks are required during non-strenuous, indoor physical education classes, but are not required in strenuous outdoor activities or during recess. Additionally, weekly antigen testing for student athletes was discontinued on Aug. 18 in response to supply shortages.

Also identified as a concern during Monday’s meeting was how close contact and quarantine protocols are being executed. Those protocols largely come down to whether or not the contact is vaccinated and whether they are symptomatic. Vaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts, for example, do not need to quarantine. They must get tested within three to five days of exposure, must wear a mask for 14 days and should carefully monitor for symptoms over the next two weeks.

People could be seen protesting the district’s mitigation plan outside of the George A. Navarre Borough Admin building on Tuesday, where the KPBSD administrative offices are. Signs called out differences in quarantine protocols for vaccinated versus unvaccinated students. Rhonda White, who was holding a sign that read, “Equal treatment for vaccinated and unvaccinated,” said she was motivated to protest the policies when her children were sent home after being identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, even though her kids were asymptomatic.

“​​I kind of just feel like they’re trying to push their vaccination agenda on our kids and it’s unfair, if they’re missing out on more school, their sporting events and they’re not sick,” White said.

Since Aug. 23, when KPBSD began formally tracking COVID-19 cases among school populations, 44 staff and 291 students have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s in addition to 136 staff and 1,611 students who have been identified as close contacts since Aug. 23.

KPBSD quarantine protocols

Unvaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must immediately quarantine. They can return to school one to two weeks after exposure once cleared by public health.

Unvaccinated, symptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must immediately isolate. If that person tests positive, they must keep isolating. If they test negative, they must stay home while symptomatic or until finished with seven- to 14-day quarantine, whichever is longer, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

Vaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive do not need to quarantine. They must get tested within three to five days of exposure, must wear a mask for 14 days and should carefully monitor for symptoms over the next two weeks.

Vaccinated, symptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must get tested and immediately isolate. If that person tests positive, they must keep isolating. If they test negative, they must stay home while symptomatic, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

Regardless of vaccination status, symptomatic individuals with no known contact should immediately get tested and stay home. A positive test means that person must isolate for 10 days. A negative test means that person should stay home while symptomatic, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

The CDC distinguishes between quarantine and isolation. Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick, while quarantine restricts people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

KPBSD’s full COVID-19 mitigation plan, as well as community case numbers and quarantine protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated students is available on the district’s COVID-19 website at covid19.kpbsd.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Young to face off with a Begich yet again

Young, 88, seemed unfazed by Begich’s entry into the race.

A remote galaxy captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is greatly magnified and distorted by the effects of gravitationally warped space. (Image via NASA)
Grant brings NASA to library

The grant supports science, technology, engineering, arts and math programming for patrons.

A spruce bark beetle is seen on the underside of a piece of bark taken from logs stacked near Central Peninsula Landfill on Thursday, July 1, 2021 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
State urges driver caution at Bing’s Landing this week due to work

The work is part of the State of Alaska’s efforts to mitigate the spruce beetle outbreak on the Kenai Peninsula.

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion 
A chicken eats kale inside of a chicken house at Diamond M Ranch on April 1 off Kalifornsky Beach Road. The ranch receives food scraps from the public as part a community program aimed at recovering food waste and keeping compostable material out of the landfill.
More food for the chickens

Central peninsula group awarded grant to expand composting efforts

The Little Alaskan children’s store is seen in Kenai on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. Located where Bargain Basement used to be in Kenai, the shop opened this weekend. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Little’ shop goes big

Little Alaskan occupies the space where Bargain Basement used to be in Kenai.

Nurses Melissa Pancoast and Kathi Edgell work shifts at the intesive care unit at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna on Sept. 22. October was the deadliest month so far for COVID-19 deaths at CPH, with 11 of 30 deaths that have taken place at the hospital since the beginning of the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Chief Nursing Officer Karen Scoggins)
‘The deadliest month we’ve had’

One-third of total COVID deaths at CPH took place in the last month.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kenai Municipal Airport on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. A kiosk that will offer educational programming and interpretive products about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is coming to the airport. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsua Clarion)
Wildlife refuge kiosk coming to airport

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge stickers, T-shirts, magnets, travel stamps and enamel pins will be available.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
5 more COVID deaths reported

The total nationwide fatalities surpass population of Alaska.

Most Read