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Friday, August 20, 2021

What would Don and Roberta Sheldon have wanted?

 Alaska’s Denali Legacy

(2021©donnliston.com)

An enclave dining area features a model of the Piper Cub flown by legendary pilot Don Sheldon at the Coast Inn at Lake Hood. A large banquet room is being remodeled in honor of Sheldon and a grand opening is planned, themed with memorabilia provided by Sheldon’s daughter, Holly Sheldon Lee, who runs Sheldon Air Service in Talkeetna.

As a kid delivering and selling the Anchorage Daily News at old time bush pilot operations along Anchorage’s Merrill Field during the late 1960s, I witnessed a way of life that is rare today. Gritty pilots flew through all kinds of weather to deliver people to places they needed to be. My father often flew as a civilian contractor out of Merrill to the military Installations serving as “Top Cover for America.”

 



Graphic from Top Cover for America book.[1]

 

This was the time when our US military monitored the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) from Alaska. And, as the eldest of three kids, my parents had provided a letter saying I could fly excess baggage if any Merrill pilot was willing to take me along for the ride.

 

I had conned adults on both sides into this deal.

 

Sometimes the ride was naturally rough, and sometimes the pilots would do maneuvers to get my attention, but I reflect on this as a time of wonder for a boy from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

According to Top Cover for America by John Haile Cloe the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II did not end the need for a strong military presence in Alaska, the only place in the United States besides Hawaii that had actually been attacked by Japanese forces. The Soviet Union had quickly taken advantage of postwar confusions and uncertainties to assert its dominance in Eastern Europe and parts of the Far East. By the end of 1949 the Soviets had developed an atomic bomb with means for delivery. Alaska’s strategic location astride anticipated bomber routes required a strong military presence during what became The Cold War.

 

From Cloe’s book:

 

In early 1949, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded that all nations capable of waging war on the U.S. were located north of the 45th parallel. The shortest attack route lay across the polar regions, and the only means of countering the attacks was an air defense system stretching across Canada and Alaska.

 

I have written previously about the experience of having a father who worked as a communications technician on the White Alice System during The Cold War: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2018/07/nike-site-reflections.html

 

Meet Holly Sheldon

 


Photo by Waneta Liston

 

About this same time another Alaskan was experiencing a different aspect of the bush flying life. Holly Sheldon was also the eldest of three children. Her father was the legendary Denali Mountain pilot Don Sheldon and her mother was Roberta Sheldon. Roberta was the oldest daughter of Bob and Tilly Reeve who established and operated Reeve Aleutian Airways. I talked recently to Holly about our varied Alaskan experiences during lunch at the Sheep Creek Lodge located on the Park’s Highway north of Willow and South of Talkeetna.

 

My memories as a child were of tagging along with my dad, who tied the seat belt to my ankle so I wouldn’t fall out of the airplane when we were air-dropping to the early climbers of Denali, explained Sheldon. Dad flew the pioneer climbers from all over the world and now we have the honor of transporting some of the grandchildren of the first climbers who ever climbed Denali!

 



 Don Sheldon was also instrumental in mapping Mt McKinley over a decade with Bradford Washborn.

 

Unassuming and precise, Holly Sheldon’s eyes sparkled as she shared her rich experience inspired by her father. She and her husband, David Lee have owned and operated Sheldon Air Service in Talkeetna since 2010. Previously Lee flew for all the air services at the Talkeetna Airport and owned Talkeetna Air Taxi during the 1990s.

 

In the beginning of our air service I had planned on being one of the pilots, adds Sheldon. But getting into and operating a successful air service in the 21st Century has required much more than when Dad was doing it. I have predominantly run the business, my husband has flown, and we have had other support pilots. I have had a great experience interacting and networking with all the climbers of the world and generations of flight-seers and folks who want to be transported into Alaska wilderness to homesteads, or just camping on the glacier.


 

Courtesy of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

An old time Alaskan business run by Alaskan values.

 

When climbers come from international locations or the lower 48 to climb Denali they are flown to the Kahiltna Base Camp, which is at the 7,200-ft level, of the Kahiltna Glacier. They start their assent of the west buttress, or other peaks of the area, from the Kahiltna side. Earlier in the season, say in April, Sheldon Air Service flies rock climbers up the west fork of the Ruth Glacier, into the amphitheater, or into the gorge or what is known as the Root Canal. Husband David Lee is one of the few pilots who land there regularly because it is very challenging—with a fantastic landing area—and only one way out.

 



 Modern technology has done wonders for our ability to know the status of climbers on the mountain, continued Sheldon. Normally we put up a base camp tent at the landing area with radio communications so when climbers come back into the area they alert us and we fly up as soon as practicable—according to weather and conditions—to bring them back. This year we used devices that are satellite driven to communicate with climbers at the landing area. We were not sure as to how far the Covid concerns would go so we didn’t put in the base camp radio but the alternative communication techniques this year have worked out really good.

 


 

Beginning at the end of April what are known as the “Long Liners” arrive to climb Denali until the glacier “melts out” or rots at the beginning of July. The world renowned climbing season ends soon after that, but the business continues to fly people to various locations in the Alaska Range. David Lee and Sheldon Air Service flew generations of customers to the Sheldon “Mountain House,” located on a 4.9 acre rock outcropping on Ruth Glacier, staked and built by Don Sheldon. This occurred over 30 years while Roberta was still living. This Mountain House was a treasured part of Holly’s childhood. As an inholding of Denali National Park, Holly says to her knowledge neither of her siblings has ever visited this special tourist destination in their adulthoods--until they took it over upon Roberta’s death.

 

Dad and I had a quartz vein up there and he would have me put pieces of bright white sparkly quartz under my arm while I played so the quartz would heat up, reflected Sheldon.  Then I held those warmed pieces of quartz in my hand on the walk back down to the glacier landing strip to the airplane. The quartz comforted me as a child as it continued to keep my hands warm on the flight home in our Cessna 180 or the Super Cub. 

 

Sheldon Air Service is based on traditional Alaskan values, flying traditional glacier aircraft; a Cessna 185--300 hp with on-wheel skis--and a DeHaveland Beaver with an Alaskan Door. It is a great aircraft to bring climbers and their gear including the kitchen sink up onto the glacier or other points around the country, added Sheldon.

 

David Lee is the longest-time, highest-time pilot in southcentral Alaska flying to the Mountain. He is going into his 42nd year of flying, with over 16,000 mountain hours and approximately 20,000 glacier landings, all with an excellent safety record. Don Sheldon would have been proud of his son-in-law.


 

Dad started with a Piper Cub, and purchased a Super Cub in 1964, which I still fly--23Zulu—the plane shown on the cover of the book about him, Wager With the Wind, said Sheldon. He also flew a Cessna 180. Those were predominantly his aircraft until the fall of 1974. He passed in January, 1975.[2]

 


Don Sheldon at Ruth Glacier

 

From the Forward of that book:

 

Don is a rare combination of warmth and efficiency, mirth and seriousness, conservativeness, and just sheer guts. Few professional pilots are blessed with his refreshingly youthful joy at drinking in the wonders of the country over which they ply their daily trade—and few pilots anywhere on earth have such a suberb spot in which to ply it.

Bradford Washburn

Cambridge Massachusetts

February 18, 1974

 

 

Two other flight businesses serve passengers from Talkeetna and another one flies out of Healy using de Havilland Twin Otters with turbine engines capable of carrying 10 passengers.

 

They leave a different mark in the terrain, they sound different and they smell different with the turbine engines, said Sheldon. So, Talkeetna over 10 years has seen up to 30 busses a day of tourists from the big industrial tour companies. They have changed the nature of the little town I grew up in and the mountain experience.




 I once witnessed this myself in Juneau during the tourism buildup of the 1980s-90s. Every year more tourists were disgorged from the giant tour ships to walk around town or take advantage of featured activities including flight-seeing. I have always favored independent travel myself.

 

From Wager With the Wind:

 

For millions of years, the upper reaches of the mountain have been held in the almost-constant grip of severe coastal storms, which travel inland from the Pacific Ocean and crest along McKinley’s South and West Buttresses. These storms consistently produce winds well in excess of 100 miles per hour, with accompanying chill factors that commonly exceed 125 degrees below zero during the summertime. When the ubiquitous coastal storms are not pummeling the mountain above 17,000 feet, McKinley, which seems to thrive on malicious perversity, is making its own weather. Due to its tremendous vertical dimension and the accompanying cloud stratification and temperature variation, McKinley is, within itself, a veritable weather factory.

 

Prior to the year 1930, venturing on foot into this world of freight-train winds and temperatures that make rubber snap like glass was considered pure folly, even by the eternally optimistic Alaskans. In the adolescence of aviation, to fly over the area was known to be highly perilous, and to land upon the flanks of the giant mountain was considered madness. But there were some bush pilots who believed there was a method to flying in the cold, thin air at high altitudes, a method waiting, like the proverbial plum, for the right man.[3]

 

 

Author James Greiner tells of the various pioneer expeditions and their successes and failures through the eyes and voice of Don Sheldon. Holly and her siblings have grown up in the shadow of their famous father, but she alone has had to deal with the challenges of the business she and David built from his inspiration.

 

We are very conscious of our responsibility to provide the safest possible transportation and support while considering the environment, she states with pride. Having grown up here we are familiar with the conditions, landmarks going in and coming out, and we are very sensitive to the weather. We ask that our clients provide as much of a window as possible to design their trip during the time they will be here. We really offer a personalized traditional service. We provide a flight of a lifetime not available anywhere else.

 

Being raised in Talkeetna by my Dad and my Mom I always knew I could be anything I wanted to be if I put in the work, said Sheldon. I have put in 20 years preparing a future for Sheldon Air Service. I attended the University of Alaska at Merrill Field to learn the technical aspects in the 21st Century for such an endeavor, in addition to earning my private pilot certificate, my instrument rating, and my commercial certificate. My goal has always been to fly our clientele to the Mountain House that my dad built. I have now passed through the traumatic experience of not having things go as planned.

 

Roberta Sheldon died June 4, 2014 and brother Robert Sheldon is exectutor of the estate. He has taken steps to block Sheldon Air Service from utilizing the Mountain House destination in its business, or even visit it personally. In fact he has arranged for a competitor air taxi company to fly turbo otters aand helicopters full of tourists to the family heirloom and blocked Sheldon Air Service. Of course everything is now tied up in the courts.

 

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

I have had challenges that have taught me a lot, concluded Sheldon. I am very grateful to my siblings for all that I have been through because I wouldn’t be where I am at today without those experiences. They have been painful and have actually forced business from our clientele who we flew to our Mountain House for 30 years. But, as an Alaskan  we’ve got to keep the sunny side up so I just keep on truckin’.

 

This is the spirit successful climbers must embrace to be successful ascending Denali.[4]

 

It is hard to imagine Alaska courts will determine this is what Don and Roberta Sheldon would have wanted to happen to their legacy, but we have all been disappointed by multiple Alaska court decisions before. The new Don Sheldon Banquet Room at Coast International Inn will keep the sunny side up, regardless,

 

References:

 

[1] Top Cover for Alaska, John Haile Cloe and Michael Monagan, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 713 South Third St. West, Missoula, MT 59801, June 1984

 

[2] Wager With the Wind; the Don Sheldon Story, James Greiner, Rand McNally & Company, 1974.

 

[3] Ibid, Page 73.


[4] One Man’s Guide to Climbing Mt. McKinley (Denali)

https://climber.org/reports/images/1500/1519-McKinleyClimbingGuide.pdf

 _____

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Arrogance of Entitlement

When the Flash Mob Wants your Land

(2021©donnliston.com)

Local Landmine Blog buffoon, Jeff Landfield and an elected member of the Anchorage Assembly, are joined in this game camera shot by other trespassers, on the private property of Frank Pugh near Paradise Valley Subdivision above Potter Marsh. Pugh owns a home in a nearby subdivision.

Imagine you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase a nice parcel of Anchorage woodland for your family, near a quiet subdivision above Potter Marsh, so you can hike on your own property, that happens to be near Chugach State Park. You are able to share the natural wonder of the area with your neighbors. But also imagine that just after closing on the purchase your employer needs you to go out of country for a few years. What if you return to discover the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) has initiated and is actively promoting trespass on your property despite safety hazards that poses?

Would YOU be upset? That in a nutshell is what happened to Frank Pugh.

On one occasion a neighbor friend called to say that 15 or more cars were illegally parked in an intersection near his home so they could hike on his property! These vehicles were interfering with access to the neighbor’s driveway. The neighbor reported that he called the Anchorage Fire Department (AFD) because this situation wqs dangerous in case of fire. Another neighbor calls Anchorage Police Department (APD) because the cars are preventing him from moving equipment down the mountain. Of course, neither AFD nor APD take any action to remedy the situation.

Some months later a hiker who drove from outside the neighborhood to hike on Pugh's property threatens him on his own property. Upon calling APD for help, the dispatcher plays down the incident--refusing to send an officer out.  So Pugh posted signage and restricted access to this entry point. Several months later Pugh received a surprise letter from the Municipal Attorney William D. Falsey threatening legal action if he did not reopen that entry point.

The big issues here: When is it necessary for a government entity to take a person’s land—when there is a prevailing public interest? When taking that land or imposing an easement on it for public use serves a small group of activists with an entitlement mentality? Exactly when does the hand of government override your inherent rights to real estate you have purchased for personal use?


The Chugach Mountains are a backdrop to the Municipality of Anchorage and integral part of the Chugach State Park.


Anchorage’s Playground

 

An estimated 70 established trails provide access to Chugach State Park, each with a trailhead, where hearty Alaskan hikers, bikers, trekkers or skiers can park their vehicles before encountering wilderness near to Alaska’s largest city. I happen to live near to one of the top 20 trailheads listed at https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/alaska/chugach-state-park. Having a nearby trailhead means increased traffic on our mountain road and sometimes crowded parking at the switchback where hikers launch.

 

I pay homeowner taxes to the Municipality of Anchorage to live here.

 

Earlier this summer an apparently impaired driver rolled his car off the road onto my own property. We were all lucky that trees stopped his car from rolling down into my front yard where my wife Waneta Liston was tending flowers.

 

A tow truck prepares to extract an automobile driven by somebody from beyond our neighborhood that rolled off the mountain road onto my property.


Living in this situation is generally tolerable, but for many of the popular trailheads the Alaska Division of Parks manages, fees are collected. The trailhead near my house has no fees and cars park in a widened area around the perimeter of the switchback. This free parking may attract cheapskates to trailheads like the one near my home.

 

Should 70 trailheads be enough to gain access to this local park wonder? In fact, accessibility is a popular theme in promotions of Chugach State Park.

 

https://www.anchorage.net/outdoors/the-chugach-mountains/


But for some people there will never be enough parks, enough bike trails, or enough Chugach Park trailheads. I remember well the campaign to establish our plethora of parks and bike trails in Anchorage--up to and including establishing the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail--to celebrate a still living Anchorage Pied Piper of populist liberal activism.

 

EaglExit.com

Their theme: Parks and trails are good, private property rights be damned.

 

For background: Four trailheads access the Turnagain Arm Trail along the northern shore of Turnagain Arm, originally known as the Old Johnson Trail, that once ran from Knik to Girdwood. The trail now runs from Potter Station to Windy Corner, with four access trailheads: Potter at mile 115.1, McHugh Creek State Wayside at mile 111.7, Rainbow at mile 108.3, and Windy Corner at mile 106.7. Maintained by the Alaska Division of Parks, these trailheads have been established for hearty Alaskan outdoorsmen, their families and dogs, who are respectful of other people’s rights and don’t need to park illegally in neighborhood roadways to access the park.[1]

 

So, who has the right to randomly enter private property?

An engineer for British Petroleum Corporation, Frank Pugh and his family purchased this acreage during September of 2012. About two months after closing on the purchase, Pugh was dispatched to the Republic of Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country which proclaimed its independence on August 31. 1991, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. BP needed Pugh’s extended reach drilling expertise at to help solve drilling problems in a place needing increased oil production. During initial interactions with neighbors before leaving Anchorage, Pugh had established that he didn’t mind neighbors using the property respectfully and he only had a minimum gate to keep motorized vehicles out. This was permissible use under the law, not hostile to the property owner.

 



 

Now Pugh had a problem.  The MOA had initiated and published a proposed Chugach Park Access Plan which highlighted this property as a potential entry point. This plan was never passed by the Assembly and only a draft version is available. [2]



Here's the setup: Create interest in the possibility of accessing the park through this private property to stimulate a relatively few activist Anchorage outdoors enthusiasts to flash mob the property and create use demand. What Pugh had hoped would be an amicable relationship with his neighbors suddenly became a new form of harassment by activists beyond the neighborhood.

 

The gate and signs Frank Pugh installed to protect from intrusions into his property.

In Pugh’s own words: At the request of my neighbor next to our gated entrance, and due to the fact that I had been recently threatened by a person that had driven from outside the neighborhood when I simply questioned whether or not he was a neighbor, I decided to reinforce the gate in October 2015 to deter people driving from outside the neighborhood from entering the property. The gated entrance had simply become a nuisance which threatened the typically quiet neighborhood environment. The intent was to discourage individuals living outside of the adjacent neighborhoods from driving to this area and illegally parking along the neighborhood streets to enter our property while continuing to allow our neighbors to pass through other points on our property.

 


During lunch recently with the mild-mannered Pugh, he described to me his intentions. It is understood that this large prime residential section has great potential for development, which he of course does not want encumbered.

 

Accelerating the problem for Pugh, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ Municipal Attorney, Falsey on March 2, 2016 issued a letter claiming a public prescriptive easement exists across Pugh’s land, and demanding that barriers he had constructed to protect his property be removed. From that time to now  Falsey and others in the activist cabal have threatened and tried to coerce Pugh to accept their terms. The now former Muni activist attorney--and former city manager--claimed a long extinct homestead road of Ivan and Oro Stewart exists from the established roadway in the switchback of Steamboat Drive at its intersection with Mountainside Village Road across the property.[3]

 


Thus began an exchange of letters between counsel for Pugh and Municipality of Anchorage attorneys. Another activist attorney, Thomas Meacham established a non-profit corporation, Friends of the Stewart Public Trail, Inc. to rally support in the effort to force public access by random persons to Pugh’s property.[4] https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ak/10086509

 

Battle lines are drawn. A new mayor Dave Bronson should be reason for hope for Pugh, who has lately filed trespassing charges against flash mob participants. He has contacted the (APD) on two occasions, the first in 2019, simply registering a complaint against Landmine clowns, including elected official Christopher Constant, Ross Johnston, and Jennifer Johnson. On August 3, 2021, Landfield and company trespassed again, and Pugh again contacted APD to demand their arrest. According to a Landmine post: “Uniformed police officers arrived at Landfield’s residence to question him” and also contacted the associate by phone.

They apparently needed to create a story to sensationalize.

Falsey may no longer be MOA Attorney but he needs a job and still knows how to churn cases. He started this one as an MOA employee, you know. [5]

 


Despite a Municipal Ethics Code that restricts employment for one year for compensation on matters under consideration by the administrative unit served by the employee during municipal service, Falsey successfully appealed to the Assembly for a waiver of the regulation to continue pursuing Pugh on behalf of the mob. On August 10, three Assembly members, Jamie Allard, Crystal Kennedy, and John Weddleton voted against allowing Falsey an ethics regulation exemption.

 


For some attorneys laws and regulations are for people who cannot find ways to break them legally.

 

References:

 

[1]50 Hikes in Alaska’s Chugach State Park, Shane Shepherd & Owen Wozniak, The Mountaineers Books, 1001 SW Kickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134, 2001

 

[2] Draft Proposed Chugach Park Access Plan

https://www.muni.org/departments/ocpd/planning/projects/documents/cap_text%20only.pdf

 

[3] Initial Letter from MOA Attorney Falsey

 

 


[4]https://alaskalandmine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/moa-letter-to-pugh-2016-04-20.pdf

 

[5] Assemblyman Constant’s letter supporting Falsey doing carrying on the political persecution of Frank Pugh started during Falsey’s employment at MOA Attorney.



 

earn more about this situation or to contribute to the defense of Frank Pugh’s property go here:

 

Friends of the Stewart Public Trail, Inc. vs. Frank Pugh et al

https://gogetfunding.com/protecting-property-rights-in-alaska/

_____

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Friday, August 6, 2021

Parents Have Rights!

Choosing what Hill to Die On

(2021©donnliston.com)



Former Anchorage Education Association (NEA) President, Andy Holleman walks through a group of protesters for a work session prior to the August 3 meeting at the Anchorage School District central office.


Every Alaskan should know you don’t get between a mama bear and her cubs. The same is true for Alaskan women and their children. These mothers inherently know they must protect their children from predators who might cause harm--even while pretending to care about all children. We all also know various institutions--including schools--have been established to care for and train children in our society, and we are expected to trust their good intentions.

 

But parents are the first teachers. Parents are responsible for the training and education of their own children. Parents must therefore take charge of the education of their children. That is one primary mission of life. Each parent must teach their own cubs to know right thinking from wrong thinking, and each must train them to recognize danger when offered candy by a stranger.

 

I knew David Schwantes as an early elementary Anchorage teacher, NEA-Alaska vice-president and strong political fundraiser during the 1980-90s. Every penny Schwantes raised for political action contained the taint of his molestation of children, a felony for which he was convicted. But don’t expect the union, or candidates he helped to elect, to care one bit. (ADN Photo)

Meaningful training for life traditionally happens with a classical education--language-intensive, not image focused. Students must use and understand words, not video images. Students must be taught the true lessons of history with a comprehensive understanding of human endeavor from the beginning until now. Students must learn math, from the basics of arithmetic to algebra, geometry and percentages, to be able to evaluate information meaningfully. In short, future citizens in a free society must be trained to analyze and draw conclusions. And, well-trained minds require discipline.[1]

 

Anchorage School Board members are elected at large. This is established in the Municipal Charter.

 

ARTICLE VI. - EDUCATION

 

Section 6.01. - Public school system. The system of public schools for the municipality shall be operated by a school board of seven persons elected at-large from seats designated as seat A, seat B, seat C, seat D, seat E, seat F, and seat G.

 

Therefore, individual members have no alliance with any particular part of the area which extends from Girdwood to Eklutna.

 

Lately some parents in Alaska have lost faith in our public education institutions to provide a basic classical education. They see the priorities being expressed by elected school boards and hired bureaucrats as contrary to educational goals they have for their own children. These parents monitor happytalk in conversations with union-owned teachers and school board members, as well as proclamations from the school district authorities. Some parents are becoming so concerned about where this is going given our bottom of the nation educational outcomes, that they are ready to take action. They believe school is not supposed to replace parent values with excuses for failure and social justice diversions. Some have had enough of it.

 

Declaring what Hill to Die on


https://www.facebook.com/groups/alaskaprie/members


Annie Massey has three children in the Anchorage School District. She has been motivated to become an activist by the actions of the ASD Superintendent and Board of Education. Massey is imploring parents of this community to become involved in stopping the indoctrination of children in lieu of meaningful education. Massey has created a Parents’ Rights in Education Facebook page affiliated with that group Outside and recently organized a demonstration to bring attention to the proposed ASD mask mandate prior to the August 3 board meeting.

 

Our goal of this protest is to bring attention to Mask Choice, explained Massey to a core of parents assembled around her Eagle River kitchen table. Participants can wear masks or not wear masks. The point is we have a choice.

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/197586342329517

On very short notice the plan was to have parents paint their cars with the message of Mask Choice and arrive at the ASD Central Office to welcome participants in the workshop prior to the meeting to consider mask policy for the coming school year. The board allowed the policy declaration by Bishop to stand.

 

One parent who was in attendance at the protest, holding an American Flag, told me: As parents me must decide what hill we are willing to die on. This is my hill.

 



 

Alaska Parent’s Rights in Education Director, Massey provided a statement in opposition to the masking policy.[2]  We know now that the School Board voted 6-1 to follow Superintendent Deana Bishop’s recommendation to require masking for all children and adults in ASD for the coming year. ASD Board Member, Dave Donley has written a statement about why he voted against it.[3]

 

Sixty-two people provided written testimony for this meeting.[4] A preview of what arguments were made for and against masking of children in ASD is revealing. Here are selections from some of the statements from both sides.

 

Kathleen Easley BSN, RN, NCSN is the school nurse at Gladys Wood Elementary School and the Gladys Wood P.T.A Co-President.[5]

 

I was very disappointed to read in the news that mask wearing in schools will continue to be optional this Fall (from summer sessions that didn't require them). While we know students benefit from in-person learning, we have an obligation to keep them safe while they are at school, in our care. Last year, we used masking, physical distancing, hand washing and other mitigation strategies that worked well and kept our students, staff, and ultimately our community safer. The students I worked with seemed to do an amazing job adapting to this and were happy and eager to be in person learning.

 

Citations:

CDC Information on COVID & Schools: https://www.cdc.gov/.../transmission_k_12_schools.html

WHO recommendations:

https://www.cnbc.com/.../delta-who-urges-fully-vaccinated...

Timelines for Pfizer’s vaccine for 5-11yo:

https://abcnews.go.com/.../pfizer-advances.../story... Delta variant & children https://missouriindependent.com/.../delta-variant-spread.../

(dense article, but paragraph on spread in their summer schools) https://apnews.com/.../health-coronavirus-pandemic...

https://abcnews.go.com/.../mississippi-health.../story...

COVID in Alaska and the MOA: Alaska DHSS COVID: https://experience.arcgis.com/.../2d19dc2b5c7e4b399ff649.../

MOA COVID dashboard:

https://covid-response-moa-muniorg.hub.arcgis.com/.../exp...

Long-COVID in children:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7927578/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/.../long-covid...

 

The message is safety and security above all. Most other testimony in favor of Superintendent Bishop’s mask mandate were some variation of this argument; ASD is simply protecting children of the community in its care. Who would dare argue against that?

 



Jake and Leigh Sloan parents of three students, made their concerns very clear to the ASD Board:

 

I urge you to VETO the recommendation that was made to institute mandatory masking this school year. Please empower parents and students with the CHOICE as to whether or not to wear a mask. Until parents have a full and equitable choice to fund other schools that support their individual health decisions, the option of what to do with masks need to be left up to them. Demonstrate that you trust families to make their own decisions with their children. By mandating masks, you are alienating parents and students who are under the conviction not to mask. You are making it difficult for these families to access public services, and many are already exiting the system, leaving them with fewer educational options. Mask discrimination in the city of Anchorage needs to end. We are all individuals making the best health decisions we can for ourselves and those in our community. We, the voters, recently elected a mayor in good faith that he would help free our city from overreaching Covid 19 restrictions. Send the voters who elected you the clear message that you trust them and desire to liberate them from unnecessary restrictive measures upon entering school doors. Your veto will send the message that diversity of opinion and practice is welcome in our schools. Schools should be a place of freedom and tolerance of the many different families and individuals who participate.

 

Testimony from Barbara Norton questioned why the ASD Board was wasting time listening to concerned parents:

 

Please don't waste time arguing about the facts. Masks do work to lower the spread of infectious diseases. Vaccination against Covid does prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death. The science is clear. We waste too much time trying to give equal time to the people who oppose masking and vaccination. I implore you to look at the facts, mandate masks in all schools and protect our vulnerable children.

 

Another parent, David Abbott wrote:[6]

 

I am writing to voice my disagreement and dissatisfaction with the proposal made by Superintendent Bishop regarding mandatory use of masks in Anchorage schools. My wife and I recently registered our daughter to attend Kindergarten this fall. While in the school for the registration process we observed happy, healthy, mask-free, children participating in the Anchorage School District’s summer school program, a program which ASD had praised for having, “no known spread,” of COVID-19. A few days following our registration for kindergarten, Superintendent Bishop released her proposal, causing me to immediately question the leadership of ASD. It is my opinion that mandatory masks for children would do more harm than good, particularly in elementary schools.

 

Another concerned parent Breanna Creek: [7]

 

We are a military family and posted here last fall. Last year I chose to homeschool my oldest child due to the pandemic and the mandates enforced by the school district. My son has anxiety and does not do well wearing masks. I am also the Committee Chair for Cub Scouts Pack 110 on JBER and know a lot of other children that also have issues with the masks. Over the last year we have followed guidelines set by the CDC but have not been super strict with our interactions with others. We have still gone out and done things and have tried to keep as much normalcy in our family as possible. Mind you, my youngest child was born July 31, 2020. None of us have gotten the Coronavirus nor do we feel it is necessary to continue with the masks. I have a teaching background but have chosen to stay home for the time being. In my experiences and as a mother I do not feel that masks are necessary for these children.

 

Finally, the statement of Tom Norbert seems to sum up why some parents disagree with ASD mask mandates for the coming year:[8]


I strongly disagree that students of any age (K-12) should be required to wear a face covering (mask) while inside an ASD school, building or school bus. Please change the ASD return to school operational guidelines to reflect that masking is optional and each parent's choice. Our students should NOT be required to wear masks for the following reasons:

- There is NO mask mandate in the State of Alaska.

- There is NO mask mandate in the Municipality of Anchorage.

- Each family should have the ability to CHOOSE (to mask or not mask) based on their individual needs.

- Parents choice (to mask or not to mask) protects everyone's medical freedoms and personal concerns.

- Kids of all ages do NOT socialize or communicate and isolate themselves when wearing masks.

- Nonverbal communication is so important and cannot be achieved with masks.

- Children thrive with facial interaction and masks limit their abilities/desire to communicate (which limits their education and involvement)

- Masks are harming our children's mental health (creating anxiety, depression, and anti-social behaviors).

- ASD is creating restrictions without taking into account the parents who do NOT want our children to wear masks in schools or on the bus.

- Our son has a Special Education Individual Learning Plan (IEP) and sever asthma. He is unable to wear a mask for 6-8 hours/day. MASKS need to be PARENTS CHOICE and not required for all students.

- Our son as severe asthma and wearing a mask will hurt and hinder his ability to breath and participate in PE and after school sports.

- Masks should not be required for students to wear during PE activities inside or outside. Similar to no masks on the playground (outside).

- In the 20-21 school year, we pulled both of our children out of ASD and HOMESCHOOLED because of we knew that long distance learning and the limited in-person learning with restrictions would be a disaster. Homeschooling was the best experience for our children and family. Many of our friends also unenrolled their children from ASD and homeschooled with great success.

-. ASD is depriving our child the right to a public education. 

- I don't want my children shamed for not wearing masks (if providing medical exemptions)

- Middle school is difficult enough with pre-teen hormones, drama and bulling. Do NOT add more stress or require masks for my children who have ADHD, battle to focus, would fidget with their masks (resulting in punishment/detention) and dyslexia just to get an education. 

- Masking should be OPTIONAL and EACH PARENTS CHOICE. This protects our family medical privacy, freedom and safety for our child during school hours. The bottom line is masks to not protect against the virus. 

- If you require masks in schools it will deter families from enrolling this school year and your funding.

- Stop dividing and creating barriers between families and ASD over masks and vaccinations. We all have the freedom to choose what is best for our families.

- ASD teachers/employees should not discuss their opinions regarding masking, vaccines or COVID at school. As an involved parent, I will educate my children on all topics surrounding COVID. NO MASK SHAMMING!.

- Teachers should also have the choice (for or against) wearing a mask at school. Many teachers agree that masks should NOT be required, but are afraid of loosing their job if they say anything. My children are excited for the opportunity to go back to school WITHOUT MASKS. However, if ASD requires masks for all students, we will unenroll our children to either homeschool or send them to private school.

 

ASD Superintendent Bishop and a majority of the school board appear to be responding to these serious concerns by sticking their fingers in their ears and loudly saying “La-La-La-La-La…” Parents are offended and seeking alternatives.


 

References:

[1] The Well-Trained Mind;

https://welltrainedmind.com/a/about-the-well-trained-mind-a-guide-to-classical-education-at-home/

 

[2] Parents Rights in Education Letter to ASD Board.



 

[3]Dave Donley Statement

https://mustreadalaska.com/dave-donley-why-i-voted-against-masking-the-kids/

 

 

[4]Written Testimony Submitted

Agenda Item Details

Meeting

 

Aug 03, 2021 - School Board Meeting

 

Category

 

Public Testimony on Non-Agenda and Non-Action Items (1-Hour Time Limit)

 

Subject

 

Written Public Testimony

 

Type

 

Information



Written public testimony:

1.    Andrea Dewees - Require masking

2.    Ann Mayo-Kiely - Require masking

3.    Kathleen Easley - Reinstate mitigation strategies

4.    Kayla Andrew - Require universal masking

5.    Lisa Pekar - Require masks for students under age 12 until eligible for Covid-19 vaccine

6.    Rachelle Griffitts - No to masking and CRT

7.    Zom Biezley - Multiple subjects

8.    Adina Roberts - Wearing masks

9.    Anne Remick - Universal masking

10.  Bob Keiner - No masking requirements

11.  Davyn Williams - Require masks

12.  Kelly Deason - No to masking

13.  Sara Gilk-Baumer - Require masks

14.  Shina duVall & Guy Runco - Require masking

15.  Addie - No masks

16.  Addilyn Dixey - Choice of masking

17.  Alecia Rathlin - require masks

18.  Andrea Gardner - 2021 mitigation concerns

19.  Areana Cuddy - opposition to universal masking

20.  Aubrey Burns - optional masking

21.  Barbara Norton - mandate masks

22.  Bethany Burgess - require masks

23.  Bonnie Bryan - support of masks

24.  Breanna Creek - choice of masking

25.  Bridget Partain - no masking requirements

26.  Brittany - end all COVID restrictions

27.  Christine Cook - support masking mitigation

28.  Chrystle Lyon - masks should be choice

29.  Cindy Early - require masks for all

30.  Colette Thibodeau - support mask requirement

31.  David Abbott - no mask requirement

32.  Evgeniia Sienkiewicz - no mask mandate

33.  Heidi McCroskey Heimerl - support proposed COVID policy

34.  Jack and Leigh Sloan - Veto recommended mandatory masks

35.  Janet Sacora - alternatives to mandating masks

36.  Jasmine Carter - support requiring masks

37.  Jennifer Hurt - do not mandate masking, make masking a choice

38.  Jerrod Dunbar - masks should be choice not mandate

39.  Kathy Rumsey - oppose mask mandate

40.  Kenisha Johnson - no mask mandate

41.  Kimberly Lunn - masks should be choice

42.  Kira Maltbie - support all masks

43.  Miles Maltbie - yes to mandatory masking

44.  Mandy McConnell - support masks in schools

45.  Marie Gall - masks should be choice

46.  Mark Truog - require masks in schools

47.  Melissa Wagner - oppose mask mandate

48.  Michael Williams - support not requiring masks

49.  Miriam Roberts - support mask requirement

50.  Misty Ellis - do not mandate masks

51.  Nathan Seymour - make masks optional

52.  Nicki Holmen - make masks optional

53.  Robin Marsh - oppose mandatory masking

54.  Shannon Wileman - no mask requirement

55.  Stephanie Flood - allow parent choice for masking

56.  Stephanie Theisinger - masks should be choice

57.  Steve Kruse - do not mask school kids

58.  Tammy Choromanski - support required masks indoors

59.  Tanya Greenway - oppose new mask mandate

60.  Tiffany Bolinder - make masks optional

61.  Tom Norbert - masks should be optional

62.  Victoria Claus - require universal masking

 

[5] Testimony of Kathleen Easily, RN

https://go.boarddocs.com/ak/asdk12/Board.nsf/files/C5AUZS7E85E1/$file/Kathleen%20Easley.pdf

 

Testimony of David Abbott:

https://go.boarddocs.com/ak/asdk12/Board.nsf/files/C5KKH3809FFE/$file/David%20Abbott.pdf

 

[7]Testimony of Breanna Creek:

https://go.boarddocs.com/ak/asdk12/Board.nsf/files/C5KKAU7D61D0/$file/Breanna%20Creek.pdf

 

[8[ Testimony of Tom Norbert:

https://go.boarddocs.com/ak/asdk12/Board.nsf/files/C5KKQ90256FF/$file/Tom%20Norbert.pdf

 

If you like this story please highlight and copy  the words and link between the "------" marks below, then paste on your social media profile, send by email, or post to any appropriate groups:

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Parents Have Rights!

“Lately some parents in Alaska have lost faith in our public education institutions to provide a basic classical education. They see the priorities being expressed by elected school boards and hired bureaucrats as contrary to educational goals they have for their own children.”

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/08/parents-have-rights.html

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