YKHC Says Elementary Schools Can Reopen

Feb 19, 2021

Gladys Jung Elementary School in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation now supports a return to in-person learning for all elementary students whose schools meet certain COVID-19 mitigation measures. YKHC updated its recommendations for reopening schools on Wednesday, Feb. 17, in response to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance for schools.

YKHC said that elementary schools can open in “hybrid mode,” which is a mix of in-person and remote learning, regardless of COVID-19 transmission at the community or region-wide level.

According to the CDC, younger children may be less likely to be infected by COVID-19 than older children. YKHC also said that younger students may benefit more from in-person instruction and are less independent than older students. The CDC has said that in-person learning has not been associated with substantial community transmission. 

Under the latest CDC guidelines, schools are being advised to follow mitigation strategies like physical distancing, universal masking, cohorting groups of students, and testing staff and students regularly.

YKHC is recommending that middle and high schools remain in remote learning mode while communities have high transmission of COVID-19. Under YKHC’s guidelines, middle and high school students would be able to return to school when YKHC is announcing fewer than 25 cases per week for the region and test positivity rates fall below 5%, among other criteria. Following a steep decline in new cases recently, many communities are now closer to meeting these criteria.   

Some school districts in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, like the Kuspuk and Lower Yukon school districts, have already allowed for schools to reopen in communities where there are no COVID-19 cases.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District board will meet on Wednesday, Feb. 24 to discuss the school reopenings. The Feb. 24 meeting begins at 4:00 p.m. and is open to the public. In a letter to parents and students, Superintendent Kimberly Hankins said that she would provide an update later that week on the district’s plans for reopening.

Editor's note: The first sentence of this story has been changed from its original version to add more context. The sentence originally said that YKHC supported an immediate return to in-person learning for all elementary school students. It now states that YKHC supports a return to in-person learning for all elementary students whose schools meet certain COVID-19 mitigation measures.