Soldotna High School is photographed on Sept. 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School is photographed on Sept. 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

SoHi, Skyview go to universal indoor masking Monday

As of Friday, nine KPBSD schools — not including schools in “small communities” — were operating, or were going to start operating Monday, with universal indoor masking for staff and students

Universal indoor masking for students and staff will be required starting Monday at Soldotna High School and Skyview Middle School in response to high COVID-19 case numbers among both school communities, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s COVID-19 dashboard. KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff confirmed the policy change on Friday.

Soldotna High School had a school community COVID positivity rate of 5.12% on Friday, with 40 people testing positive in the last week. Skyview Middle School had a school community COVID positivity rate of 3.95% on Friday, with 16 people testing positive in the last week. Universal masking policies at both schools will be reevaluated on Oct. 15.

As of Friday, nine KPBSD schools — not including schools in “small communities” — were operating, or were going to start operating Monday, with universal indoor masking for staff and students. Schools operating with universal indoor masking on Friday included Nikiski North Star Elementary School, River City Academy and Cooper Landing School.

Since the school district began formally tracking cases of COVID-19 in schools on Aug. 23, 498 positive test results from students and 86 positive test results from staff have been reported. Those figures include 92 positive results from students and 19 positive results from staff from the last seven days.

In determining whether a school moves in or out of universal indoor masking, KPBSD uses criteria outlined in revisions to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan announced earlier this month.

A “conversation” between district administrators and school site administrators is triggered when a school district meets four out of five criteria outlined in the plan. Factors considered include a school community positivity rate of 3% or higher, a student absenteeism rate of 25% or higher, local and regional hospital and ICU capacity, a community’s COVID-19 case count per 100,000 people and the impact of a schools staff absenteeism rate.

People can confidentially report a positive COVID-19 test for themselves or their child to their school nurse or to Nurse Miller by calling 907-260-2391 or by emailing MMiller@kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

KPBSD quarantine protocols

Unvaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must immediately quarantine. They can return to school one to two weeks after exposure once cleared by public health.

Unvaccinated, symptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must immediately isolate. If that person tests positive, they must keep isolating. If they test negative, they must stay home while symptomatic or until finished with seven- to 14-day quarantine, whichever is longer, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

Vaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive do not need to quarantine. They must get tested within three to five days of exposure, must wear a mask for 14 days and should carefully monitor for symptoms over the next two weeks.

Vaccinated, symptomatic close contacts of someone who is COVID-positive must get tested and immediately isolate. If that person tests positive, they must keep isolating. If they test negative, they must stay home while symptomatic, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

Regardless of vaccination status, symptomatic individuals with no known contact should immediately get tested and stay home. A positive test means that person must isolate for 10 days. A negative test means that person should stay home while symptomatic, then talk to a health care provider and consider testing again before returning to school.

The CDC distinguishes between quarantine and isolation. Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick, while quarantine restricts people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

KPBSD’s full COVID-19 mitigation plan, as well as community case numbers and quarantine protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated students is available on the district’s COVID-19 website at covid19.kpbsd.org.

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

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