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Superintendent O'Brien explains face-covering order

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

    At Monday night’s school board meeting, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien expounded on his Friday decision to require face coverings at all schools when classes resume later this month for all staff and students grade three and above.

    He said the district was told by the state that it’s “Smart Start” plan had a flaw, and that it was not requiring masks at all schools.

“The medical advice on this was the importance of wearing face covers in our green operational zone, as well as our yellow operational zone,” O’Brien said. “And I'll directly from the feedback we received from the Department of Health and Social Services quote, 'while green means that the risk of holding school in person is outweighed by the benefits to most students. There is no truly low risk circumstance in a pandemic.'”

    O’Brien said a variety of reasons went into his announcement requiring face masks.

“This advice from our state's medical experts, along with the countless emails, calls and letters from staff, parents, and community made my decision to require face masks for all staff and all students in grades three and higher when six feet of physical distance can not be met an easy decision that I solidly stand by today,” he said. 

O’Brien also told the board he’s been in discussion with parents regarding distance learning. If parents choose to use distance learning, they can use programs from several different sources, not just from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. The problem, O’Brien says, arises when the state distributes funds to schools based on enrollment during a 20-day period in October.

“But I just hope that our parents will consider the significant negative impacts for the future of this district that going to an out of district correspondence program will have,” he said.

    O’Brien informed the board that he’ll be out of state for the next week to meet with his doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona who are treating him for cancer.

“This appointment is one month later than my care team wanted it to be. However, there was a tremendous amount of work that needed to take place here in the months of June and July in preparation for our Smart Start school start up, so I delayed this appointment,” he said.

    O’Brien also made the announcement that Jennifer Booz, a Homer Middle School teacher, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. He said he didn’t have any more information on hand, but congratulated her on the honor.

News Kenai Peninsula Borough School DistrictSuperintendent John O'Brien
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