School is in session; Homer students are in class

Aug 24, 2020

Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

When school resumes Aug. 24, students in south peninsula schools will be attending classes in person. That is not the case in the Central Kenai Peninsula, where the incidence of coronavirus infection is such that students will begin the year with two weeks of remote learning.
    The Kenai Peninsula School District is using a green-yellow-red system to indicate whether schools are open to in-person learning or not. A red code for schools does not mean classes are cancelled -- just that they will be conducted exclusively online.
    District spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff was on KBBI’s Covid Brief on Thursday.
“And so it could be that everybody gets a call, just like on a snow day, that tomorrow will be 100 percent remote,” she said.”
    She said the district central office will be keeping an eye on covid infection trends, and to keep schools from bouncing back-and-forth between local and remote learning, they may use extended closures.
    “It might be like we did in the central peninsula, the superintendent in conjunction with input from medical and through our Smart Start plan and all the metrics that are put into place, made a decision to suspend opening schools in person, and only go to a hundred percent remote for the first two weeks because we're trending up,” Erkeneff said. “And we're definitely high into red right now. So instead of just doing it and seeing day by day, so that families can plan, businesses can plan and teachers can plan, he did that for a two week period.”
    Erkeneff said each school will be using a system to keep track of where individuals go during the school day.
    “We're doing kind of daily contact of knowing where anybody's been in a building, so that if somebody tests positive for a COVID-19 and we need to go do contract tracing to figure out who had exposure, and was close to that person, and maybe go back several days,” she said. “Because there's this onset of symptoms, but people are contagious before that. So we've got lots of things in place to be able to track that well. And yeah, it's a big undertaking.”
    She also said that parents will be able to keep an eye on their children’s schools with the district’s web-based coronavirus dashboard, and to expect to hear directly from the district only when infections are on the rise.
    “The only time there would be a direct alert is if it's a warning that, ‘Hey, we're on the rise, just giving you a heads up that, you know, we're watching this closely.’ Or if it goes into a high risk red in the area, then everybody would get at the same alert from their school,” Erkeneff said. “But I would be sending that out from a district office to all the schools that are affected.”
    And while a “code red” listing for a school will force a majority of the students to switch to remote learning, Erkeneff says there are a group of students that will continue in-person schooling.
    “We identified in the Smart Start plan, that about 25 people worked on all summer long, that there's certain populations of students who really do need in person learning. And because the schools won't be as full with other students, we can physically distance much better and create distance in the classrooms,” Erkeneff said. “So there's certain student groups, the Title One pre-K, Special Education pre-K, kindergarteners, and some of our special education students would still be able to come to school in a high risk situation.”
    As it stands now, classes in all Southern Peninsula Schools, from Ninilchik south, as well as the Seward area, will open to students on Aug. 24. Erkeneff said, Schools in the Central Kenai Peninsula will start the year with remote learning.