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In the room: Central Kenai schools finish their first week of in-person classes

Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 8:39 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The schools in the central Kenai Peninsula Borough School District transitioned from online to in-person classes on Tuesday.

“Overall it went pretty smooth, they had all new protocols and nobody had been in school since march so all the kids had to learn new ways to move around in their buildings,” said Pegge Erkeneff, director of Communications for KPBSD.

Following that first day back in the classroom, Erkeneff reached out to principals of those central schools to get a sense of how things were going. “They overwhelmingly have said the excitement was huge."

Despite positive responses, there are tricky components to contend with. It is one thing to return to your old school and deal with new rules, it is a bit more challenging when entering a whole new building and grade level as some students are. That challenge is magnified by the cancellation of orientation programs due to COVID-19. In a normal year, those programs would help students, “Learn lockers, they learn the building, they learn schedules, so a lot of that didn’t happen this year," Erkeneff said.

Another consideration to contend with is parking. With more parents choosing to drive their children to school instead of having them take the bus, parking lots are packed both before and after school.

“The schools did a great job planning out based on their physical layout what would work and a couple of schools even made a video so that parents could watch it ahead of time so they had a visual of what’s going to happen because it’s different than it’s ever been," Erkeneff said.

Now that students are actually back on school grounds, other questions are being raised, specifically around extracurricular activities.

“Sports are happening. You know at the high school level here’s another issue that’s bubbling up, guess what’s coming up? Usually in the fall? Homecoming? How can we rethink and re-imagine the experiences for our high school students that are ritual," Erkeneff said.

Despite the questions that still have no solid answers reaching some partial level of normalcy is making a difference.

“Seeing school buses on the central peninsula that’s the first time since March and I can hear children on the playground across the street so that’s music in your ears," Erkeneff said.

An uptick in COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula could change all that but there are plans in place to mitigate risk.

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