ASD postpones in-person class plans for foreseeable future

A spike in recent COVID-19 cases in Anchorage caused the school district to change course
Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 2:11 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District’s plan to resume in-person learning has been put on hold.

“I want to be open and honest with everyone,” Superintendent Deena Bishop said. “It’s no surprise that conditions have changed.”

The school district sent a letter to the community and families this afternoon stating there is no set date for bringing students back into buildings.

“From the time we transitioned ourselves to opening school, we were looking at the average, if you will, being about 35 to 45 in Anchorage, and we are well above that now,” Bishop said.

According to ASD’s website, that average now sits at a 14-day rolling average of 56 in the Anchorage Municipality and 69 in the seven-day rolling average as of Wednesday.

“I have not and will never take this type of decision lightly,” Bishop said in the email. “The service that public education provides in our community is paramount, not only for our young people’s futures, but for the health and prosperity of our city and state for decades to come.”

Smaller programs currently operating in school buildings will continue, such as the reading tutor program and other innovative supports for our students.

“Additionally, I look to expand and offer more part-time, school-based programs to meet various student needs,” Bishop said. “Schools will share these opportunities as they become available.”

In early September, the Anchorage School District announced its plans to return students back to in-person learning starting with elementary and special needs students starting on Oct. 19, the beginning of the second quarter. However, those plans were predicated on COVID-19 numbers continuing to trend downward.

“We’re not going to disregard any kind of warnings or any kind of data,” Bishop said in an earlier interview. “We will follow the science, we will follow the math.”

The rising cases point to holding students back and continuing with distance learning based on the district COVID-19 matrix.

“We know, we always know, if it’s not right for the community based on the number of say COVID cases,” ASD Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth said. “If there are pockets of breakouts, the Mat-Su is a great example. We’re very keen of what is happening in the Mat-Su district.”

ASD also announced a two-week closure of the high school volleyball season due to a rise in documented exposures among players and coaches on Thursday.

As for the students, families and educators, the new normal of online learning will continue. A second announcement from the school district on additional plans moving forward will be made on Oct. 15. Bishop says she plans to continue with updates on the first and fifteenth of each month to keep the community informed.

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