Image via Kenai Peninsula School District

Image via Kenai Peninsula School District

Remote learning extended for 17 KPBSD schools; Connections enrollment grows

KPBSD announced the extension of remote learning for 17 schools in response to COVID-19 case numbers

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced a one-week extension of 100% remote learning for 17 peninsula schools on Wednesday in response to continued high COVID-19 case numbers on the peninsula.

Eastern peninsula schools and southern peninsula schools will continue operating at high-risk level through at least Friday, Nov. 13. It was announced last week that remote learning for central peninsula schools would also continue through Nov. 13.

Seldovia’s Susan B. English School will reopen for on-site learning starting Monday, Nov. 9. The school shifted to 100% remote learning on Oct. 27 after the district confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 in the community.

According to the announcement, a staff survey is currently being conducted and parents and older students can expect to receive a survey within the next week so that district leadership can hear their input.

“The hope and plan is to safely bring an onsite at-school learning option to many more students at some point in December if areas are continuing to operate in high risk,” the announcement reads.

KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien is quoted in the announcement as saying that they are working on new plans to send to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development and to the school board “for approval and adoption.”

“We know many of our students need to be learning onsite at school,” O’Brien said. “We are redoubling our efforts to address mental health concerns for both students and our dedicated staff, especially during this transition period until Smart Start plan changes can be vetted and approved by the Board of Education.”

The announcement comes in the wake of growing concerns from some community members, who want schools to reopen for on-site learning.

During Monday night’s KPBSD school board meeting, protesters gathered on the sidewalk near Kenai Central High School along Kenai Spur Highway holding signs calling for schools to reopen. The board also heard testimony from students and parents who criticized continued remote learning.

According to enrollment numbers provided to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board at their Nov. 2 meeting, the number of district students who are enrolled in Connections Homeschool program has increased since the district’s last survey.

Enrollment numbers from Sept. 24 showed that 1,772 of the district’s 7,947 students were enrolled in the Homeschool program, or about 22.79%.

Enrollment numbers from Oct. 21 show that the total number of students enrolled in the district has decreased to 7,664 and that the number of students enrolled in Connections has increased to 1,801. This means that 23.5% of all KPBSD students were enrolled in Connections.

Enrollment counts are not official enrollment numbers, but offer a one-day snapshot in time that the KPBSD’s school board receives for informational purposes.

Five other small KPBSD schools continue to operate at low-risk level and offer on-site learning.

Risk levels

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 review their school decision matrix.

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. Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students can still attend classes in-person during 100% remote learning.

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 12 resident cases reported by the state Thursday for a total of 356 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.

100% remote learning will continue for central peninsula schools through at least Nov. 13. As of Thursday, the central peninsula would need to lose 304 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 one resident case reported by the state Thursday for a total of 33 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. 6. As of Thursday, the southern peninsula would need to lose 14 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 one resident case reported by the state Thursday for a total of 14 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. 13. As of Thursday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose seven 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 ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com

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