Kids going to school in the Lower Kuskokwim School District this year will be spending the entire time with the same small group of students, 12 or less, according to the plan described by Superintendent Kimberly Hankins. It will mean that students will be spending most of the time in classrooms together, and even eating lunch there. It’s called a “cohort” system.
“So, while we say you can have up to 12, really that’s confined by the space of the classroom, and how you set up desks, and how you are able to create that 6-feet of social distancing. So, while you might want 12, your space might be limiting you to eight,” Hankins described.
The cohort plan means that there will be staggered recess, entry, and dismissal times, along with a requirement to wear masks, and other precautions. The district’s plan meets what’s known as a “medium-risk level,” and has been fine-tuned to align with recent changes in the state’s recommendations for operating schools during the coronavirus pandemic. The plan combines classroom study with remote learning.
Hankins adds that because each village school site is different, each school is going to operate slightly differently in order to keep students and staff safe while socially distancing and wearing masks. The individual village plans are being developed now.
“Our goal is to work through key sections of the plans every day next week, apply those things locally, and then work as a team to develop their site plan,” Hankins said.
Parents also have the option to have their children learn at home, with class materials provided remotely, and teachers working remotely with the at-home students. The district is asking parents to look at the plans, which will be posted on the Lower Kuskokwim School District website, and to contact the district if they want to have their kids learn remotely. Parents also have the option to change their minds during the school year if they decide it is better that their child return to classroom study, but Hankins said that might not happen instantaneously.
“Because we need to make sure that we’re following all the guidelines that we have in place when moving kids back into the physical school. So give us a day to arrange for that,” Hankins said.
The district is also working to have an athletic program this year, though how that will be done safely is still being decided. Hankins says that the district school board did not go along with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s recommendation to abandon a sports program this school year.
“And what that looks like is that it allows for sports, following the new policies of ASAA, but also making sure that our village advisory school boards and tribal councils can also weigh in on the decision on whether to have sports at the local level.”
Superintendent Hankins is appearing each Friday morning on KYUK this month to keep updating people on plans for the coming school year.