Vaughn Dosko adjusts a basket for sanitizing rags at Kenai Middle School on Friday, Jan. 8 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Vaughn Dosko adjusts a basket for sanitizing rags at Kenai Middle School on Friday, Jan. 8 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

More students resume in-person learning

Students returned to in-person learning on Monday in response to downward trends in COVID-19 case trajectories

More Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students returned to in-person learning on Monday — a week earlier than initially anticipated — in response to downward trends in COVID-19 case trajectories across the peninsula.

Despite all regions of the peninsula considered to be at “high risk” by the district, changes to the district’s Smart Start plan that were approved last month by the Board of Education allow students to resume in-person learning during such conditions.

Students in grades pre-K through sixth are allowed to resume on-site learning five days a week even if their school is at high risk. Students in grades seven through 12 resumed on-site learning on an A/B schedule. Previously, schools operated 100% remotely while at high risk, with the exception of pre-K, kindergarten and special education/intensive needs students.

Though students were allowed to return to in-person learning, the district was still offering a 100% remote learning option. According to a one-day snapshot of district enrollment on Dec. 17, 2020, 1,859 of the district’s 7,629 students were enrolled in Connections, the district’s home-school program.

When schools reopened on Monday, it was also with additional COVID-19 mitigation measures in place, such as a requirement that everyone in school buildings wear masks at all times, enhanced disinfection methods using hypochlorous acid and efforts to minimize high touch points, among others.

As of Jan. 11, the central peninsula needed to lose 80 cases from its 14-day case count in order to drop back into medium-risk level. The southern peninsula needed to lose four cases and the eastern peninsula needed to lose four cases. When a risk level drops to medium risk, students in grades seven through 12 will be allowed to resume on-site learning five days a week.

In determining whether to reopen a school to on-site learning, the district and their 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 their school decision matrix.

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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