As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced Tuesday the extension of 100% remote learning through the end of the quarter for most students at 34 schools.
Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students, who shifted to remote learning following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s statewide alert on Nov. 12, will be allowed to resume on-site learning on Dec. 2, with increased COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place.
After a Nov. 2 school board meeting that saw several parents, teachers and students voice their opposition to the repeated extension of remote learning, the district announced that they would be reviewing their SmartStart plan to determine how students could be brought back into school safely during high-risk operations.
KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said earlier this month that any new reopening plans will be sent to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for review and then to the school board for approval and adoption.
In their Tuesday announcement, the district said that an update to the SmartStart plan will be presented to the Board of Education at their Dec. 7 meeting.
The district also encouraged people to wear masks, socially distance and keep their bubble small while heading into Thanksgiving.
“Limit your actions to plank the curve and shift the trend downwards, so schools can reopen to the onsite at-school learning option for all grades,” the announcement said.
In determining whether to reopen a school to on-site learning, the district and their Medical Advisory Team analyze 14-day positive case counts and the seven-day positivity trend, consult with medical providers and public health and review their school decision matrix. Small district schools, which include Susan B. English School, Cooper Landing School, Hope School, Nanwalek School, Port Graham School and Tebughna School continue to be open for on-site learning and operate at low-risk level.
DHSS created risk levels as part of a plan to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors, but DHSS says risk levels also can be used to inform decisions by other entities, including schools, institutions of higher learning and businesses.
During 100% remote learning, Get-It and Go meals are free for all students and can be picked up daily at school.
Operational risk levels, case incidence rates and case numbers by community are updated daily on the district’s risk levels dashboard at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.
Central Peninsula — High Risk
The central peninsula, or Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and “other North,” had 41 resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 586 cases in the last 14 days.
The central peninsula is high risk when there are 52 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 51 to 26 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are 25 or fewer cases in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the central peninsula will need to lose 534 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.
Central peninsula schools include Aurora Borealis Charter School, K-Beach Elementary, Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences, Kenai Alternative School, Kenai Central High School, Kenai Middle School, Marathon School, Mountain View Elementary, Nikiski Middle-High School, Nikiski North Star Elementary, Redoubt Elementary, River City Academy, Skyview Middle School, Soldotna Elementary School, Soldotna High School, Soldotna Montessori Charter School, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary.
Southern Peninsula — High Risk
The southern peninsula, or Homer, Fritz Creek, Anchor Point and “other South,” had seven resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 124 cases in the last 14 days.
The southern peninsula is at high risk when there are 20 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 19 to 10 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are nine cases or fewer in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the southern peninsula will need to lose 105 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.
Southern peninsula schools include Chapman School, Fireweed Academy, Homer Flex School, Homer High School, Kachemak Selo School, McNeil Canyon Elementary, Nikolaevsk School, Ninilchik School, Paul Banks Elementary, Razdolna School, Voznesenka School and West Homer Elementary.
Eastern Peninsula — High Risk
The eastern peninsula, or Seward, had two resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 44 cases in the last 14 days.
The eastern peninsula is at high risk when there are eight or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are four to seven cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are three or fewer cases in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose 37 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.
Eastern peninsula schools include Moose Pass School, Seward Elementary, Seward High School and Seward Middle School.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.