Limited in-person schooling, sports, and after-school activities are all scheduled to begin Aug. 24 for Lower Kuskokwim School District students. But Superintendent Kimberly Hankins says that the district is keeping an eye on the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 in the region.
Hankins says that the district's start date won't change, but what school will look like will constantly be reevaluated throughout the year. The LKSD school board voted to have an athletic program; the district is still working out the details, but Hankins says that any competition will take place within the district.
“That was the initial idea in mid-July, that we don’t promote any out of region travel. So that won’t be happening,” said Hankins.
Proposals to organize “mini leagues,” which would involve travel between geographically close schools, or other ways of allowing in-region athletic competition are all on the table, and will change as the risk from the coronavirus changes. Hankins said that the board will be addressing it at its next regular meeting.
“Student activities will remain on board meeting agendas and will be subject to change, just like our risk level. It is going to be addressed again as an action item on the Aug. 20 board meeting,” Hankins said.
Under its plan, the Lower Kuskokwim School District would go to 100% remote learning if there is community spread. So far, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation says that the evidence from its investigation of the recent spike in cases is that there is no community spread. But that doesn’t mean that new evidence won’t surface, changing the way school looks when it opens Aug. 24.
Hankins says that parents already have the option to have students stay home and learn remotely, but until the recent spike in Bethel, few have chosen to do that.
“Initially our numbers indicated we would be expecting a lot of in-person. What I’m hearing the last couple of days is that we have parents who are concerned with the increase in cases, of course, as am I, and that might be changing the number of students we will have in-person,” said Hankins.
The district is also working hard to get the equipment needed to provide remote learning to its students. Hankins now projects that all the equipment will arrive in a couple of weeks, but then the district will have to work to get it in place and running.
“And then to make that equipment available, to work with families to install their own equipment, and then to get the server set up so they can access the intranet,” said Hankins.
That means it will probably be September before the district’s remote learning system is fully functional. The district will cover all the costs, and the service will not increase the cost of a household's existing internet service.
Superintendent Hankins can be heard on Coffee@KYUK every Friday morning through the month of August, updating parents on the district’s plans to provide education safely during the pandemic.