Schools, sports, after-school events canceled

The closures of part of an effort to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska’s governor last Friday suspended classes and other activities at public schools, as well as banned visits to a number of correctional facilities, as part of his effort to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. Mike Dunleavy, working with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, ordered the suspension of classes and after-school activities from March 16 to March 30.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District posted an update about the extended school closures on its blog last Friday evening.

The district said in the blog post that additional information about the closure would be provided to families Monday.

“Our understanding is that these missed days will not be added to the school calendar,” the post said.

The post added that KPBSD staff will return to work Monday or Tuesday, depending on job type. Those details were emailed to staff Friday.

The blog also said that a student nutrition services meal delivery plan is set to begin Tuesday.

In addition to school, the blog said all after-school activities are canceled.

“This includes building use availability for all outside user groups,” Soldotna athletic director Kyle McFall wrote in an email to the SoHi athletic community Saturday afternoon. “Therefore, all extracurricular programs and other after school activities are not permitted to practice, formally meet, travel, or participate in any organized games/events during the period of time that schools are closed to students.

“Once return to school procedures have been established, coaches and athletes will be provided further information regarding possible return to activities policies.”

Then Saturday, the Alaska School Activities Association announced the cancellation of the basketball and cheerleading state tournaments. The tournaments were scheduled for March 18 to 21 and 25 to 28 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Wednesday, ASAA had announced the tournaments were postponed. Friday’s suspension of after-school activities and classes by the state made ASAA take further action.

“ASAA agrees with the State of Alaska’s assessment that our best course of action in dealing with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), is to slow down the statewide spreading of the virus,” ASAA’s press release said. “One of the ways to mitigate the spread is to not have large statewide gatherings.

“March Madness Alaska is possibly the largest statewide gathering each year and ASAA would not be acting responsibly if we were to host this year’s event.”

Kenai Peninsula teams that have qualified for state are the Nikiski girls, Cook Inlet Academy girls, Nikolaevsk girls and Nikolaevsk boys.

“Cancelling a state tournament is not something we take lightly,” ASAA continued in the release. “We recognize that for many students this opportunity will not come again. However, we prioritize the health of our students, coaches, school staffs, fans and elders over the want to determine this year’s champions.”

Dunleavy also suspended visits to Department of Corrections facilities, Division of Juvenile Justice facilities, the Alaska Military Youth Academy and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. The governor limited visitation to Alaska Pioneer Homes, which house the elderly. Also on Friday night, organizers of the Iditarod sled dog race said they are moving the 19th checkpoint in the 1,000-mile race out of the community of Shaktoolik to help prevent the transmission of the virus. “The Iditarod continues to utilize best practices and caution regarding COVID-19,” the organizers said in a statement. Also on Friday, Alaska lawmakers announced plans to restrict access to the Capitol in Juneau amid concerns about the new coronavirus.

Access will be limited to lawmakers, legislative employees, members of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration and credentialed journalists. In a release, issued by members of a subcommittee appointed to plan for COVID-19, the steps were described as temporary but necessary for health and safety reasons and to help ensure lawmakers can finalize outstanding work.

Major issues remaining for lawmakers include the budgets and a decision on the size of Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to pay residents. Committee hearings and floor sessions will be carried online and on TV. Public testimony will be accepted by phone and in writing.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. State officials late Thursday announced the first case of the virus in Alaska. Meanwhile, new jury trials in Anchorage, Kenai and Palmer were suspended for the week starting Monday. Grand jury proceedings in Anchorage and elsewhere will continue as scheduled, according to the state court system.

Clarion staff contributed to this report.

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