Eastern peninsula schools dropped into medium-risk level on Tuesday, making them the first in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to do so in months.
The district announced last week that all students at some schools could return to school as early as Jan. 25 if community spread of COVID-19 continues to slow. KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said that decision won’t be made until Friday.
School risk levels are generally indicated by a region’s 14-day COVID-19 case count, however, the district and its Medical Advisory Team, which includes a mental health professional, also analyze seven-day positivity trends, consult with medical providers and public health, and review their school decision matrix in determining how to bring students back for on-site learning.
The 14-day case count for the eastern peninsula, which includes Moose Pass School, Seward Elementary School, Seward Middle School and Seward High School, dropped to seven cases on Tuesday. The region is considered high risk when eight or more cases have been reported in the last 14 days.
Erkeneff said the district does not plan to hover back and forth between risk levels, but rather to declare regions solidly in one risk level or another after all state data points have been analyzed, such as positivity trends.
“What we don’t want to do is return all students to on-site classes too soon, when there’s actually a more positive case trend occurring, and then needing to respond to that,” Erkeneff said, adding that that is not currently what is happening.
When a school or region shifts to medium risk, all students will be allowed to return to on-site learning every day with enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. As of Wednesday, central, southern and eastern peninsula schools were all operating at high-risk level, meaning students in grades pre-K through sixth were allowed to return to in-person learning five days a week, while students in grades seven through 12 returned on an A/B schedule.
A school will likely only move back to 100% remote learning if there is COVID-19, or exposure and a need to conduct contact tracing at a school, Erkeneff said.
“The hope is with everyone doing their part, and more vaccines available, that schools will complete this year with the on-site learning option open to everyone who chooses it,” Erkeneff said.
As of Jan. 20, the central peninsula needed to lose 72 cases from its 14-day case count in order to drop back out of high-risk level. The southern peninsula needed to lose six cases.
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.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.