The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced Friday that the recent extension of 100% remote learning for 34 schools will also apply for student groups who have previously been allowed to attend school in person when areas are in high-risk level, including pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students.
Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students were allowed to attend school in person on Friday but will start remote learning on Monday.
The district announced Thursday that remote learning would be extended for central, southern and eastern peninsula schools through Thanksgiving break. Schools will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27. The earliest in-person learning could resume for schools currently operating remotely is Nov. 30.
While schools have operated remotely, pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students have been allowed to attend school in person.
According to the district’s Friday announcement, education for students who attend schools operating at high-risk level will be delivered via digital platforms or with paper packets.
“The KPBSD continues to build the plan to bring more students back onsite during high COVID-19 risk, and it is true that school buildings may be one of the safest places to be,” the announcement said. “However, the extreme phase of exponential spread that is happening now must first be slowed, and begin to trend down before onsite learning can resume.”
The district’s announcements come in the wake of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s emergency alert, in which he said the next few weeks will be “critical” for the state and urged Alaskans to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing and wearing masks.
At a Nov. 10 meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien gave a presentation explaining the district’s pandemic response plan. In a Nov. 4 announcement, O’Brien said 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 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. In their Thursday announcement, the district said their medical advisory team now includes a mental health professional.
At the assembly meeting, O’Brien said that more than 71 district staff members have either tested positive or have been identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive. O’Brien also said that 13 students have tested positive and 93 have had to quarantine.
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 27 cases reported on Saturday for a total of 498 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 Friday, the central peninsula will need to lose 447 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 16 resident cases reported by the state Saturday for a total of 53 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.
100% remote learning will continue for southern peninsula schools through at least Nov. 25. As of Friday, the southern peninsula will need to lose 40 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 Friday for a total of 29 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.
100% remote learning will for eastern peninsula schools will continue through at least Nov. 25. As of Friday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose 26 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