Graphic by Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion

High-risk KPBSD schools to resume on-site learning Monday

The shift comes a week earlier than anticipated

More Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students will resume on-site learning a week earlier than anticipated following a decrease in community COVID-19 spread, the district announced Tuesday. KPBSD will begin operating under their revised “high-risk” level conditions, which were approved last month, beginning Monday, Jan. 11.

Students in grades pre-K through sixth will be allowed to resume on-site learning five days a week even if their school is at high risk according to KPBSD’s school risk levels. Additionally, students in grades seven through 12 will resume on-site learning on an A/B schedule, meaning they will attend school in person two days a week. According to the district’s release, schools will be in contact with families about how their A/B schedules will be designed.

Previously, schools operated 100% remotely, with the exception of pre-K, kindergarten and special education/intensive needs students, while at high risk.

Middle and high school sports seasons will also open with high-risk mitigation plans and ASAA protocols in place, with the hope that protocols will be followed such that seasons will be played without interruptions or cancellations.

The KPBSD Board of Education approved revisions to the high-risk operations during their Dec. 7 meeting, which lasted for more than seven hours and saw many community members voice their concerns about extended remote learning. The changes were set to become effective no later than Jan. 19. It is possible for all students to return to on-site learning if community spread of the virus reduces such that enough cases are lost from 14-day case counts, which help determine school risk levels.

Throughout KPBSD’s winter break, which began on Dec. 18 for most schools, the 14-day case rate for all the central, southern and eastern peninsula decreased significantly, though as of Tuesday all were still at high risk. As of Jan. 5, the central peninsula needed to lose 79 cases from its 14-day case count in order to drop back into medium-risk level. The southern peninsula needed to lose 10 cases and the eastern peninsula needed to lose seven cases.

When a risk level drops to medium, students in grades seven through 12 will be allowed to resume on-site learning five days a week.

Beginning this quarter, KPBSD will work with individual schools who experience a positive case of COVID-19 requiring student or staff quarantine. This will allow individual classrooms or schools to shift to 100% remote learning instead of an entire region.

Schools will also operate with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols. All staff and students will be required to wear masks at all times. Schools will be expected to implement mitigation protocols “faithfully and fully.” Six feet of social distancing will be observed whenever possible. Enhanced sanitation will take place at all schools via the use of Electrolytically Generated Hypochlorous Acid. Most schools are also receiving upgrades to their HVAC air handling systems.

Bus transportation will be provided on a normal schedule, however, masks will be required for everyone on the bus and seating plans will be implemented. Additional mitigation protocols will also be followed.

In determining whether to reopen a school to on-site learning, the district and its Medical Advisory Team, which includes a mental health professional, analyze 14-day positive case counts, analyze the seven-day positivity trend, consult with medical providers and public health and review its school decision matrix.

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.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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