Students will file through the doors of Kodiak’s public schools on Tuesday morning after almost six months out of the classroom.
“We’re really ready. Of the teacher’s I’ve spoken to, they’re excited. The parents that have been coming in have had positive comments,” Kodiak High School Principal Neil Hecht said. “I can’t wait to see those wide eyes of our freshman class when they come in for the first time.”
Kodiak Middle School Assistant Principal Diane Maples had similar thoughts.
“Our teachers are looking forward to seeing our students back in the building, and we’ve seen excitement from the majority of our students that have shown up in the past few days,” she said.
Schools will open in the “green” level. That means schools will be in-person, all day, just like normal school, but with temperature checks, masks, socially distanced classrooms and extensive cleaning.
If cases rise in Kodiak or in the schools, the system could shift into a yellow, a mix of online and in person, or red, online only.
There will also be fewer students in the school buildings this fall. Parents had the option of choosing a completely online school or to homeschool. More than 350 kids will be enrolled in the online program, which will be staffed by 12 teachers. Homeschool participation has doubled relative to a normal year. Two staff members have been added to the homeschool program to handle the numbers.
Over the past week, teachers, students and parents have been meeting to talk about the new curriculum and online platforms.
“When I hear from teachers, they are so thrilled to see their students and the students are thrilled to see their teachers,” Superintendent Larry LeDoux said. “One teacher told me she broke into tears when the first student walked into her class.”
Scheduling remains a challenge, trying to get all the students all the classes they need while maintaining social distancing. Staffing is a problem too. LeDoux said the district is still short on aides and substitute teachers, and still has a few openings for teachers as well.
Bigger challenges lie ahead, but Kodiak’s relative control over COVID-19 outbreaks has made opening in person possible.
“Everything we do is day by day,” LeDoux said. “I’m so proud of our community and our staff to open in green because it’s really important for teachers and students to connect with one another, to see eye to eye.”