Some school districts extending Spring Break in response to COVID-19 threat

(Source: MGN)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Three of the state's largest school districts have extended students' Spring Break by a week in response to the threat of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula Borough all made the announcement Thursday, the same day Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that the state had its first positive test result for the new virus.

"After conferring with my superintendent colleagues in the other urban centers of Alaska and monitoring the University of Alaska response, I have come to the conclusion that for the health, safety and well-being of our students closure for one more week is the best decision," wrote Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

"KPBSD will close all 42 schools to students March 16-20, 2020, to assist with flattening the infection curve, social distancing, and slowing the COVID-19 spread in our diverse communities," wrote John O'Brien, the Superintendent of Kenai Peninsula Borough schools. See the full statement here.

The Anchorage School District made its announcement at a press conference held by city Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said that because so many community members interact with ASD students and staff, it was important to make the decision, and to prepare for the potential of alternative delivery of classroom lessons, to slow the spread of the virus.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is extending their spring break for a week. Dr. Monica Goyette, Superintendent of Schools for the Mat-Su Borough School District, said students may start taking classes online when school is back in session after the extended week.

“We are not prepared to make that decision at this point. We want to wait and see what is happening in our community,” Dr. Goyette said, "We will be spending next week doing needs assessments and try to start remote meal delivery again.”

In the KPBSD, O'Brien says the district will implement a "Symptom-Free" Schools protocol. Under the protocol, students and staff should not be at schools or school activities if they have a temperature of 100 or greater, a cough, or a constantly runny nose.

All three districts said staff and student families would receive more communication from the district regarding the next steps as the situation develops.

The Dillingham City School District announced Friday, March 13, that students would not return to classes until March 30. District and school staff members have varying return dates,according to the notice on the school district website.

The Juneau School District says schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday to allow for teacher training.

"The closure will allow teachers to plan for educational needs during an anticipated shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)," says the statement. "The closure is not based on any specific concern about cases in Juneau or JSD schools. Alaska School Activities Association sanctioned activities will proceed as normal."

“I know this is hard, but the scientific evidence does not support facility closure at this time,” City Manager Rorie Watt said. “The best science will guide public action on management of Juneau’s facilities, and since Alaska does not have a community transmission COVID-19 case, we have no evidence that closing public facilities would be strategic."

This is a developing situation. KTUU will update this story as more information becomes available.

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