Elementary School students and high-need students in other grades are headed back to classrooms in the Lower Kuskokwim School District. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation say that despite the still-high case rate in many communities, it’s safe for younger students to return to school for at least part of the day.
Some students in the Lower Kuskokwim School District will be headed back to classrooms this week, with others to follow in the coming weeks. Superintendent Kimberly Hankins said that the recommendations from the CDC, along with local health guidelines, allow younger students to return to classrooms with some precautions.
“All of our elementary schools will be reopening, some as early as this week. And we expect students back in a hybrid model and/or in a phased reentry, depending on site,” Hankins said.
The CDC says that young children appear to be less susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.
The “hybrid model” for education was used by the school district earlier in the pandemic. That’s the system that limits class sizes with staggered school days or hours. Students and staff are also required to wear masks and keep their distance, along with other precautions. Parents are also being asked to permit the district to test students for COVID-19. The district wants to regularly test both students and staff to detect and respond to any potential outbreaks.
Hankins said that testing is going to look different in each community, depending on whether the local health clinic can help.
“It would be nice to partner with local clinics if they have the capacity to assist. So we’re exploring those options,” Hankins said.
The district is also looking into training its staff to conduct COVID-19 tests. It is moving ahead with some classroom instruction while it works through these issues.
While the region’s COVID-19 case numbers have been going down, the district is still in the “high risk” category. That would normally mean older students would remain in remote learning, but the district is also allowing two groups of students back to classrooms at this time: seniors, to help them meet their graduation requirements, and other students who are behind in their work. Hankins said that the school board agreed with the plan
“It might be small groups of students who are really struggling with engagement. It might be, again, those seniors. It does not mean we’re opening full on [7th through 12th grades]. But we are excited to be getting those other groups back in the building,” Hankins said.
LKSD is continuing to provide remote learning services for families who do not feel classrooms are safe yet, but surveys indicate that over 80% of the district’s parents are comfortable with sending their school-age children back to school.