Schools report new COVID-19 cases as eastern peninsula shifts to remote learning

The district announced the shift via blog post Thursday night.

Seward and Moose Pass schools shifted to 100% remote learning Friday and will stay remote until Oct. 16, following confirmation that a new case of COVID-19 is connected to one of the district’s Seward schools. Affected schools include Moose Pass School, Seward Elementary School, Seward Middle School and Seward High School.

The district announced the shift via blog post at 9:31 p.m. Thursday, and said they will announce next week whether or not the schools will resume in-person classes for the week of Oct. 19.

“Without ample time to conduct contact tracing, positive cases trending upward, and out of an abundance of precaution, Moose Pass and Seward schools will shift to 100% Remote Learning beginning Friday, October 9, 2020,” the Thursday release said.

KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said Friday that parents were contacted regarding the change but that there was someone at the school to inform parents who may have missed the announcement and showed up in person. School buses also did not run Friday.

The district said that they would be working with public health officials on Friday to assess interactions the person may have had while connected to the school and that those determined to be close contacts would be called.

The district also identified a positive case of COVID-19 at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna on Thursday, and subsequent contact tracing led to nine people being identified as close contacts. These close contacts are quarantining through Oct. 20 and can return to on-site school or work on Oct. 21, Erkeneff said on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the district announced that eastern peninsula schools would continue to operate at medium-risk levels even though the 14-day case count indicated high-risk levels.

The eastern peninsula is considered high risk when there are eight or more cases over the last two weeks. Cases reported by Seward on Tuesday pushed the region’s two-week cases total to nine. The district and their medical advisory team met Wednesday to discuss whether or not to move the schools to 100% remote learning, but ultimately decided to operate at medium-risk levels.

According to the district’s announcement, the decision not to move to remote learning earlier was made after analyzing multiple factors, including the 14-day case counts and the seven-day positivity trend. If Seward hadn’t reported any new cases, the 14-day case total would have dropped by four over the next couple of days, meaning eastern peninsula schools would had shifted back to operating at medium-risk level.

As of Saturday, the eastern peninsula had a 14-day case total of eight.

Al Plan, Seward athletic director, said in a text message Friday that a Saturday swim meet in which Seward was to host Kenai and Homer was canceled.

Plan also said Seward runners would still be allowed to compete in Saturday’s state cross-country meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

This article has been updated with the latest information on school district COVID-19 cases.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com. Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak and reporter Brian Mazurek contributed to this report.

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