Teachers react to ASD school start plan

 ASD student working
ASD student working (KTUU)
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 5:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Last Thursday, the Anchorage School District released its proposed plan for resuming in-person classes. While COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Anchorage, some teachers are worried that starting face-to-face classes on Aug. 20 may be premature.

The plan released by ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop calls for starting the school year with two days of in-person classes and moving to a five-day a week in-person plan by September. Parents also have the option to select their mode of education either through “ASD in School” or “ASD at Home.”

ASD at Home would be a full-time online program whereas ASD in School would have a blended course delivery.

“We do understand starting school in a different way is problematic in different areas and our plan is nimble to address those prior to having all students in school,” Bishop said at the announcement of plan.

Sandra Lambert, a first grade teacher at Birchwood ABC Elementary, said everybody wants to go back to school but since she has an autoimmune disease, she’s concerned about her safety.

“I feel like going back into the classroom is really going to put my health at risk, and I never even imagined having a job where I felt like I was going to have to put my health at risk,” Lambert said.

Lambert, like many other teachers within the district, has been using her summer to prepare for giving online instruction. She spent most of June learning best practices for online learning and she hopes she can teach online to decrease risks to her health.

Corey Aist, president of the Anchorage Educational Association, said he’s received over 250 emails since Friday from teachers who are concerned about keeping students and staff safe during the school year.

“I think the trend of COVID spread in our community should dictate what happens to the opening of face-to-face learning. The spread of COVID-19 is increasing in all our communities,” Aist said.

As the head of the association, Aist gave feedback to the district about the fall semester. He said everyone wants to see student success but safety in schools has always come first.

“Look at how much money we have spent on security on prevention of different threats to our schools… and now we have a pandemic and it’s something we can’t see,” Aist said.

Romig Middle School teacher, Ben Walker, said it’s nice to have a plan from ASD, but he hopes that plan will be flexible and responsive to COVID case counts.

“We want to go back to school safely, and we want more than anything, for schools not to be this hotbed of infection that comes back to the community who’s trying to contain it,” Walker said.

A document detailing the ASD school start plan list “rigorous health and safety protocols” as one of the top priorities of the plan. The plan also says there should be a flexible process to move between risk levels.

The Alaska Smart Start plan has identified three levels of risk (low, medium and high) that come with corresponding changes to the level of in-person interaction. The start of school will fall under the medium-high risk model but will ASD plans to move into a medium-low risk instruction model by September.

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