Lockers and hallways remain empty with schools closed across Alaska to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has prompted a global pandemic, on April 6 in Soldotna . (photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Lockers and hallways remain empty with schools closed across Alaska to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has prompted a global pandemic, on April 6 in Soldotna . (photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Fall school year plans still up in air

The district has created a work group to explore ways school can reopen safely in the fall.

As the school year wraps up, many are wondering what the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year will look like. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Department of Education and Early Development are just beginning to discuss how students will attend school come August.

The district has created a work group to explore ways school can reopen safely in the fall. At the May 6 school board meeting, Superintendent John O’Brien said the commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development, Michael Johnson, told districts across the state to prepare multiple plans for delivering education this fall.

O’Brien has formed a work group for the district — made up of principals, teachers, district staff, school board president Penny Vadla, and the district employee associations. The work group will help create recommendations for how the district can safely reopen to students and staff.

“This year in the shadow of this current global pandemic, we have begun planning both at the state and at the local level … on what school might look like in the fall at the start of next school year,” O’Brien said at the school board meeting. We understand that it’s important in this difficult time to involve all stakeholders in this process.”

David Brighton, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, spoke at the May 6 school board meeting, saying he hopes people can go back to meeting in person safely.

“I appreciate the committee that will be working starting on Friday (May 8) on how we can address school next year,” Brighton said at the meeting. “These are big and difficult times.”

The state’s Department of Education and Early Development is in the process of drafting a “restart and reentry framework” for districts to use when deciding how they want to reopen, Rochelle Lindley, public information officer for the department, said in a Thursday email to the Clarion.

Lindley said the framework uses guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The framework will offer parameters for how schools can safely operate in a “low, medium and high risk environment,” Lindley said.

Districts and schools will build their own plans for how they plan to deliver education using this guiding framework.

The department is still discussing the framework with districts and other education stakeholders. Lindley said more information about the framework will be available early next week.

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