Wrangell schools should end COVID travel testing policy


December 14, 2022 | View PDF

I am the parent of an upcoming graduating senior at Wrangell High School. This May, I will have had two kids successfully complete their primary and secondary education through the Wrangell public schools. As I write this letter, I aim not to be too negative. However, I am deeply disappointed and disheartened by the school district’s continued COVID testing policy for student athletes who travel for competition.

As reported by KSTK on Dec. 2, the policy supported by Schools Superintendent Bill Burr is stricter than the policy of the Alaska Schools Activities Association. Stikine Middle School and Wrangell High School should not be the only schools in Southeast that have to abide by this testing policy. In addition, the Wrangell School District policy is contrary to the parent advisory committee’s suggestion.

The Wrangell superintendent said, “It’s not saving our athletes or our regular students from illness. But I’d like to think that we are doing our best for everyone’s sake, those who are healthy and for parents who are sending their students on travel so that the rest of the team is healthy. And for their (own) sake, nobody wants to play when they’re sick.”

Germs spread in schools. Viruses spread. People get sick — and the majority recover. I am not aware of one single (healthy and not immune-compromised) teenager in the state who has died from Coronavirus.

I recently spoke to a local health care provider who told me that the clinic is currently seeing patients not so much for COVID cases but for flu strains that are hitting the community hard. Are we to test for other viruses as well? The common cold, swine flu, hoof and mouth or perhaps monkeypox? Where does it end?

Like the superintendent said, of course “nobody wants to play when they’re sick,” but it is students and parents who should be entrusted to make those calls.

President Joe Biden has stated that the pandemic is over. We should not allow this virus to harm our children any longer, and at this point damages due to outdated policies such as travel testing negatively affect our youth much more than the virus itself.

What has truly hurt and hindered our youth has been these past several years of lockdowns, shutouts and the loss of social activities. Numerous studies have shown both the negative effects on mental health arising from the pandemic and the positive mental health impacts of participating in school sports.

Thankfully, most kids are resilient, but nonetheless Wrangell’s youth deserve better. The stranglehold on our children needs to stop.

I know I share the opinion of many others on this issue, and I hope the district will reconsider its stance on COVID travel testing for our student athletes. Our children have suffered enough.

Ava Hay


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