Beginning Monday, Jan. 11, all Kenai Peninsula elementary schools will extend the onsite at-school learning option to five days a week through sixth grade. The 100 percent remote learning option will remain available for all students. Currently Pre-K and Kindergartners may attend all week, as well as at-risk or vulnerable students. Seventh through 12 graders will attend onsite two days a week, dividing into two alternating groups. Seward Middle and High School Principal Trevan Walker stated that the staff elected to adopt an AA/BB alternating attendance model.
“We’ve got an A and a B cohort for both middle school and high school,” he said. “The A cohort will come to us on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll be 100 percent remote on Wednesday, which will give our custodians a chance to fully sanitize the building between cohorts of kids, and then we’ll have the B cohort come in for Thursday and Friday.”
The remaining three days of each cohort’s instruction and assessment for the school week will happen remotely. Principal Walker added that sixth graders, though allowed to attend all week on the same campus as seventh and eight graders, will not have any contact with the older grades whose attendance is still limited.
Additionally, sports seasons will resume for middle and high schools throughout the borough. Masks will be required for all athletes, but school officials are optimistic that the season may be played without interruption if all mitigation protocols are followed.
“We’ve got seniors who are maybe looking to put together their final statistics for college scholarships and the opportunity to play at the next level,” Walker said. “High school sports, it’s a little bit bigger than just something for kids to do in some cases. So, we really feel obligated to put something together for those kids, particularly for our seniors who have committed their years of service to the school and to the community.”
Walker stressed that school staffers and officials are working tirelessly to prepare for Monday, when the new plan will go into effect.
“My plan is to have the cohorts and some additional instructions published to our parents no later than Thursday,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll have lots of opportunity to have the information so they can plan and prepare to start sending their kids back to school on Monday.”
Monday’s attendance policy is a loosening of the current restrictions, and though Seward remains an area of elevated risk, officials are keeping watch over the 14-day trends in area infections. Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Director of Communications Pegge Erkeneff said that if the numbers show a definite downward trend, it could mean a return to full-time attendance for all students within a matter of weeks.
“There’s a lot of positive cases dropping off the 14-day count, so we’re watching closely as well as to what’s happening with the numbers,” Erkeneff said. “Are they going to stay and continue to drop? Are we going to see a rise after the holiday season and new year? So, we’re looking at that, and it could be that the Seward area moves into medium risk fairly soon.”
Erkeneff noted that other factors, such as vaccine availability for teachers, may also contribute to the full-time reopening of schools, and that even now it appears infection numbers may be showing signs of decline.
“It’s too soon to tell for sure if the trends are definitely going down,” she said, “but it’s really promising and people have been doing the right things.”
Walker urged parents to watch the schools’ usual communication channels for updates, which should be forthcoming by Thursday.
Bus service will be available. Everyone will be required to wear a mask and seating will be assigned.
Monday, Jan. 18 is a school holiday, and the January early release day has been cancelled.