School board grants charter schools the authority to require face masks – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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The Fairbanks school board approved a request by four charter schools to determine their own policies for face masks.

The vote at a special meeting on Thursday was unanimous, according to Jennifer Luke, president of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education.

“We are not looking at taking away autonomy from the charter schools,” Luke said during an interview on Friday.

In practice, charter schools have been afforded the power to set masking policy until recently when it came to light that the Board of Education needed to formally grant charter schools that authority. Luke said the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development recently informed the school district that it needed to be written into the schools’ contracts.

When the Board of Education voted earlier this month to make face masks optional at public schools starting Jan. 3, that policy also applied to charters schools.

Four charter schools requested face mask policy autonomy: Boreal Sun Charter School, Chinook Montessori Charter School, Effie Kokrine Charter School and Watershed Charter School.

The Board of Education amended their contracts to add a line that their school academic policy committees have the option to determine masking requirements. The policy committees are primarily comprised of school staff.

“I think that is the beauty of schools of choice,” Luke said. “We are giving them the authority to make that choice for their school community.”

Public comments were mixed on the issue, according to the school board president.

“We got a lot of written testimony for and against it,” she said.

Parents who prefer the school board policy to their charter school’s policy are under no obligation to send their students to the charter school, Luke said.

“If they don’t like what is happening in that school, they always have the ability to go back to their home school or choose a different charter school,” Luke said.

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