Sanitization equipment is seen inside of a classroom at Kenai Middle School on Friday, Jan. 8 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Sanitization equipment is seen inside of a classroom at Kenai Middle School on Friday, Jan. 8 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

All students can attend in-person classes 5 days a week starting Monday

Eastern peninsula schools began operating at medium-risk level on Monday

Students at all 42 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools will be eligible to resume on-site learning five days a week beginning Monday, Feb. 1, in response to declining COVID-19 case numbers and effective mitigation measures, the district announced Thursday.

Southern and central peninsula schools have been operating at high-risk level, meaning students in grades pre-K through sixth were allowed to return to in-person learning five days a week, while students in grades seven through 12 returned on an A/B schedule. Families are still able to opt for a 100% remote learning option.

KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said Thursday that the decision to allow all students to return to school was made in part due to decreasing community transmission of COVID-19 and because of how effective the district’s mitigation efforts have been in limiting exposure and transmission in schools.

“Working together, we can keep schools open when operating in Red, or High COVID-19 risk,” the release said. “So far, safety mitigation plans are working, so keep up the good effort during time at school, riding the bus, participating in sports, and with outside activities!”

Eastern peninsula schools, which include Seward elementary, middle and high schools, dropped into medium-risk level earlier this month, with students in all grades allowed to return to in-person learning five days a week beginning Jan. 25.

When schools operate at medium-risk level, students in all grade levels are able to attend classes in person five days a week with enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. Those protocols include requiring staff and all students to wear a mask at all times, maintaining social distance when at all possible and implementing seating plans on school buses, among other things.

The announcement comes just a day after the district formally announced that Clayton Holland will succeed John O’Brien as KPBSD superintendent later this year. O’Brien has faced pushback from parents on the peninsula, who have long called for students in all grade levels to attend on-site learning five days a week.

The KPBSD Board of Education approved changes to the district’s “high risk” operations last month. Prior to Jan. 11, schools at high-risk level operated 100% remotely. The district has also said that beginning in 2021, it will be working with individual schools if a positive COVID-19 case occurs in schools. This will prevent entire regions from shifting to 100% remote learning by having individual schools or classrooms operate remotely instead.

Operational risk levels, case incidence rates and case numbers by community are updated daily on the district’s risk levels dashboard at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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