Bethel students may have thought that they were going to school on Tuesday, Sept. 8, but the likelihood that COVID-19 was potentially spreading in the community prompted the Lower Kuskokwim School District to continue “at-home” schooling under what they call “high-risk” status. Superintendent Kimberly Hankins says that it’s not clear when they will be able to have school taking place in Bethel classrooms again.
“We need to give this time to play out,” said Hankins. “So in terms of when we will open at medium-risk, I don’t know that answer right now. It really depends on how the presumed community spread sort of manifests in the coming week or two.”
On Sept. 5, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation announced that there was likely sporadic community spread of the coronavirus in Bethel, changing the risk status of the community’s schools. During the high-risk status, there are no school sports programs.
Superintendent Hankins, speaking on Sept. 8, said that having to change plans over the weekend wasn’t easy, but Bethel parents should now be getting materials and information for students to learn at home.
“It’s challenging when you go into the weekend planning for one delivery model or method and then have to make a shift over the weekend. You know, all of our teaching staff in Bethel was prepared to welcome students today, but because of the situation we wanted to make sure we are following the guidance of YKHC. So parents should know that they should hear from their school about material pickup or delivery today.
The district is moving forward with plans to offer voluntary testing for teachers, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is working out the logistics. Plans to make at-home learning easier by beefing up internet connections through the use of a private web are still underway, but it looks like the earliest it will be in place will be the end of the month.