As the Lower Kuskokwim School District moves to reopen school for some students, many parents have been asking whether or not sports will resume. The district has decided to hold off on in-person student activities for now.
Nine parents phoned in to LKSD's March 3 school board meeting, calling for LKSD to reopen school for all grades sooner, and to resume sports activities for students. Darrell Garrison, a Bethel parent, shared how for his daughter, sports activities and academic performance are closely linked.
“The first semester she did really well; she ended up getting a 3.75 GPA. Second semester came around and she heard that the recommendation was that there was going to be no contact sports. She now has four F's,” Garrison said.
In February, the school board had decided to resume sports practices as soon as students returned to school. Since then, the district decided to reopen schools for some students despite there still being "high transmission" of COVID-19 in the region. In its March 3 meeting, the board took another look at sports activities and ultimately decided to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
The school board voted unanimously to not allow any in-person sports activities while the district has “high-transmission” of COVID-19. If and when COVID-19 numbers in the district fall to levels indicating “substantial transmission,” students will be able to practice sports outdoors with 6-foot physical distancing. Student athletes would be allowed indoors once numbers drop even further to indicate “moderate transmission.” The board also voted to continue the cancellation of events, games, matches, and traveling for sports until at least the April 29 board meeting.
“It pains me greatly because I know how much sports means to many people. But so far we have kept people safe and our students safe, and that’s very important to me, and that’s more important than anything,” said LKSD board member Michael Husa.
Schools in Quinhagak and Toksook Bay reopened this week. Quinhagak welcomed back students in kindergarten through 6th grade, while Toksook Bay started with small groups of students who needed help catching up in school. Superintendent Kimberly Hankins relayed the Toksook Bay principal’s report.
“He said he's seen a lot of smiles, even though people are masked, and that his staff has appreciated those ‘aha’ moments of learning. Those have been really motivating,” Hankins said.
School reopening dates will vary by community. In Bethel, the Pre-K program will open on March 8. Kindergarteners, high school seniors, and some high-need students in other grades will return on March 11. Gladys Jung Elementary School will reopen on March 15, and Ayaprun and some students at KLA will begin on March 22.
Schools in Mekoryuk will be reopening for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Hankins said that Mekoryuk has vaccinated 95% of its eligible adults, and that other communities that have similarly high vaccination rates may reopen school for all grades sooner.