The school year is taking shape in Kodiak. Months of planning by almost 100 school district employees and volunteers has resulted in detailed plans for how to restart schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The general plan considers three different scenarios — what the district calls green, yellow and red — following guidance from the Alaska Department of Education.
The scenarios are based on the level of COVID-19 transmission in Kodiak. In green, students are in school with heightened social distancing and sanitizing measures. In yellow, there’s a mix of distance learning and in-school education. In red, everything is online.
The Board of Education heard a much more detailed account of those plans Monday night, from scheduling and face coverings, to curriculum and substitute teachers.
Here are eight takeaways from Monday’s meeting, in no particular order.
This is not a comprehensive list. More information is available on the school district’s website and more decisions will be made in coming days.
The calendar will change. The board approved adding six days of in-service to the beginning of the school year. These days will be dedicated to teacher and parent training. Teachers will be trained further on digital platforms, small group instruction, social and emotional learning needs and more, according to a memo from Superintendent Larry LeDoux. Parents will be trained on digital platforms, communication with schools, expectation and organization. The Alaska Department of Education still needs to approve the calendar change, but LeDoux said he didn’t expect that to be a problem.
Face coverings will be required in school buildings for all staff and all students grades 2-12. Some exceptions may be made, and they are optional for kindergarten and first graders. They must also be worn on buses. The district will supply masks to students who need them.
LeDoux said having everyone wear masks will allow schools to operate in green as much as possible.
“We want to be in green and be in school as much as possible. Masks help us do that,” he said.
Schedules at the high school will be different. Instead of taking seven classes all year long, high school students will take four classes in the fall semester and four in the spring. Kodiak High School principal Neil Hecht said longer classes are more conducive to online learning, should the district have to go that direction.
The middle school will remain on a seven-class, all-year schedule. All students will have Mondays off in all schools in yellow and red. That will give teachers a chance to plan and do more training.
In-person elementary instruction will only be in math and language arts if schools enter yellow. Other subjects will be taught online. Students will also get take-home tubs full of workbooks, pencils, crayons and other age-appropriate materials.
Substitute teachers will be critical to operation. Last flu season, before COVID-19 struck, the district peaked at needing 49 substitute teachers but only being able to fill 37 positions. LeDoux thinks the district might need even more than that this fall, given that any feeling of unwellness will need to be taken very seriously.
Anything that can be moved outside will be. LeDoux said this was an important recommendation from his medical advisory committee. This includes some classroom classes and most physical education classes.
Extracurricular activities will be curtailed or moved online. All large school gatherings — such as dances, assemblies and banquets — are canceled. Clubs will follow whatever level the school is at: in-person meetings in green, blended in yellow and online in red. Fine arts performances will not have a live audience.
The school district will make a decision on what level to start at in early August. “We want to give parents time to plan,” LeDoux said.