Senior Elijah Royal-Reyna receives his diploma during Kenai Central High School’s Class of 2020 Graduation Parade in Kenai, Alaska on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Senior Elijah Royal-Reyna receives his diploma during Kenai Central High School’s Class of 2020 Graduation Parade in Kenai, Alaska on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Masks required for adults at KPBSD graduations; other protocols school-specific

Graduation ceremonies will cap the end of a school year that saw tensions rise between the district and parents.

Adults attending graduation ceremonies at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools will be required to wear face masks, per the district’s COVID-19 mitigation policies, but each school will have its own policies beyond that. Multiple KPBSD graduations are scheduled for next week, including Kenai Central High School, Nikiski High School, River City Academy and Soldotna High School.

Graduation ceremonies will cap the end of a school year that saw tensions rise between the district and parents, some of whom felt that COVID mitigation protocols went too far. Some parents took to the streets in December to protest prolonged remote learning in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers. The district revised its COVID protocols earlier this year and allowed all students to return to in-person classes even when the region was at “high-risk level” and eliminated masking requirements for some outdoor activities. Some parents last month organized student prom events outside of the district, which said it would not be sponsoring proms so that it could focus on making sure graduation ceremonies happened in person this year.

KPBSD Nursing Supervisor Iris Wertz said during a COVID update to the Board of Education last week that while cases among district staff aren’t as high as they were last year, cases among district students are higher than in previous months.

Wertz said that 11 KPBSD staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in April. That is compared to a low of one positive staff member in February and a high of 35 positive staff members in November, and is higher than the number of positive staff cases in March, February, January and last December.

KPBSD recorded more COVID-19 cases among students in April — 33 — than in any month since last September. Fourteen of those cases were reported in the week prior to the board’s May 3 meeting, Wertz said. There were also 198 students who were identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, including some who were other students. Outside of school, Wertz said, most close contacts were identified as parents. In all, Wertz said there have only been three incidents of in-school transmission of COVID-19. One of those cases was picked up through routine COVID-19 testing among student athletes.

Two KPBSD students have developed “permanent cardiac injury” from COVID-19 and can no longer participate in competitive sports, Wertz said. That is in addition to six more students who are experiencing symptoms of “long COVID,” including loss of some senses more than four months out from having contracted COVID-19.

A full schedule of KPBSD graduation dates and times is available on the district’s website at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

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

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