On Tuesday, Susan B. English School in Seldovia moved into the high-risk category under the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District protocols after a person in the community tested positive for COVID-19.
The school moved to 100% remote learning for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday and Friday of this week are parent-teacher conference days for all local schools, and students will not be in session.
KPBSD Director of Communications, Community, and Government Relations Pegge Erkeneff said in an email that the district was notified of a positive COVID-19 case in the Seldovia community on Monday. Since the case was not connected to Susan B. English school, contact tracing was not done by the school district.
Principal Jeff Ambrosier sent a message to parents, students and staff on Monday notifying them that the school was going to remote learning on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the message, which Erkeneff provided to the Homer News, he wrote that Superintendent John O’Brien will make a decision this Friday as to whether the school will return to in-person learning next week.
“If the positive COVID-19 case had been someone in our school, the person would be interviewed by public health, and our team,” Ambrosier wrote.
Get-It and Go meals for students of Susan B. English can be picked up at the school between noon and 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Get-It and Go meals are free and available to be picked up at most district schools between noon and 1 p.m. each day while a school is remote.
On Wednesday evening, the school district extended remote learning status for 35 schools, including Susan B. English. Remote learning has been extended for one week for schools on the southern peninsula and eastern peninsula, according to a school district press release. That means local schools will be remote through Nov. 6. Susan B. English School’s remote learning status was extended for the same length of time.
For schools on the central peninsula, remote learning has been extended for two weeks, through at least Nov. 13, according to the press release.
School district COVID-19 risk levels
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has mitigation plans in place for what will happen with in-person education when different regions of the peninsula are in low, medium and high-risk levels. Those plans can be found here: kpbsd.k12.ak.us/content.aspx?id=41923
Regions of the peninsula are put into low, medium or high-risk categories based on the number of new cases of COVID-19 identified in the regions over a 14-day period. This model is based on rates of cases per 100,000 population.
As of Wednesday, the southern Kenai Peninsula (from Ninilchik south) was in the high risk category with 32 new cases in the last 14 days. The southern peninsula is in low risk if it has had zero to 9 new cases in the last 14 days, is in medium risk if there have been 10 to 19 new cases in the last 14 days, and would go into high risk if there were 20 or more new cases in the last 14 days.
The central peninsula, including Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and Kasilof, was at high risk as of Wednesday, with 209 new cases over the last 14 days.
The eastern peninsula (Seward and Moose Pass) was at high risk Wednesday with eight new cases of COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
As of Wednesday, the rural communities category within the school district were at low risk, except for Seldovia. That category includes Nanwalek School, Port Graham School and Susan B. English School in Seldovia across Kachemak Bay, as well as Cooper Landing School, Hope School, and Tebughna School.
KPBSD spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff told the Peninsula Clarion on Tuesday that the district is still getting reports of positive COVID-19 cases, even with most district schools operating under remote education. Prekindergarten, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students are allowed to attend school in person under remote learning. The district is getting reports of new COVID-19 cases from those students who are still attending on site, and from staff who are still going to the school buildings to work, Erkeneff told the Clarion.
The Peninsula Clarion contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information from the school district regarding extension of remote status for schools.