The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced Thursday that 34 schools will continue 100% remote learning through at least Nov. 25.
Nov. 25 is a Wednesday and schools will be closed Nov. 26 and 27. This means that the earliest schools for which 100% remote learning was extended would be able to resume on-site learning would be Nov. 30.
The announcement comes almost two weeks after the district’s Nov. 2 school board meeting, which saw parents, teachers and students give feedback about their experience with 100% remote learning. Many said they were struggling with the virtual learning environment while others said it is necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
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. O’Brien said that the district is in the process of evaluating the district’s plans to possibly bring students back for on-site learning while schools are at high-risk level, and that the process is going to be collaborative and labor intensive. 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, analyze 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 over 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. Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students can still attend classes in person on Friday. A decision about whether or not these groups will be permitted to attend school in person will be made Friday. If no announcement is made then they will be able to continue on-site learning next week.
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 35 resident cases reported by the state Thursday for a total of 468 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. 25. As of Thursday, the central peninsula will need to lose 417 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 three resident cases reported by the state Thursday for a total of 51 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 Thursday, the southern peninsula will need to lose 32 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 three resident cases reported by the state Thursday for a total of 23 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 for eastern peninsula schools will continue through at least Nov. 25. As of Thursday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose 16 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 email@example.com.