Kodiak High School

Kodiak High School. 

School will start a few days later as the Kodiak Island Borough School District adjusted its calendar to include a few extra in-service days for teachers and staff.

The school board approved the decision at a special meeting Thursday, after Superintendent Larry LeDoux explained added training is needed to help prepare for remote learning if a sharp increase in COVID cases forces the school district to go in that direction.

The calendar change will push the start of school to Sept. 1 for middle and high school students, and Sept. 2 for elementary school students. Kindergarten students will still start school Sept. 7, just after Labor Day.

“We have over 50 new teachers and a lot of new classified staff, new students in our district and a new set of parents, so we believe it is imperative to prepare for something we hope will not happen,” LeDoux said. 

LeDoux called it prudent planning for teachers to train, to prepare lessons and be ready to transition without interruption to students’ learning process.

“We learned a lot last year — parents and teachers learned a lot — and I think we all agree that we prefer in-person learning,” LeDoux said. “But we also want to give staff time to talk about what worked and what didn’t work, and give opportunities to train parents and students in our delivery software.”

LeDoux said the overall in-service period prior to the start of school will be more than just COVID related. In-service for teachers and staff typically includes welcome and orientation, briefing of technology and curriculum, and getting acclimated to their respective school sites. The in-service period also includes critical training in mandatory reporting, suicide prevention, and safety and crisis response, among other topics.

“This is not a COVID year for the district. Last year was,” LeDoux said. “We are not going to let COVID take over all the great things we want to do and our teachers and administrators and parents have wanted to happen. We have an excited group of new teachers.”

Principals will meet with parents as they distribute new iPads for the school year to help them understand new software “if we go to remote learning.”

Conducting in-service related to remote learning later in the school year would not make sense, he said, because it would disrupt the learning process.

“It certainly does not work well because it’s basically triage,” LeDoux said. 

LeDoux said the additional service days will benefit staff since the district suspended a lot of its training during the last school year, including social-emotional elements.

“We can’t put those off because if we do, we lose another year of training,” LeDoux said. “The training we do in in-service is important as we move forward as a district — not because of COVID, but because our goals are much more than our current performance.”

LeDoux said things are different this year compared to the previous school year when considering the pandemic. Increased contact tracing, increased immunization levels and a community that has become educated to COVID are likely to keep schools open. 

“If we follow our mitigation plan and our community works together, we probably won’t close. But we won’t know for certain,” he said. 

Board President Julie Hill agreed that the additional in-service days will help.

“What we’re trying to do is have in-service that helps prepare for growth in areas that we’ve identified as areas of concern,” she said. “That way, we can keep the focus on that while we adequately prepare for possible closure if COVID continues to escalate.”

Echoing LeDoux’s sentiments, Hill said COVID won’t be the entire focus for operations during the school year. 

“It’s really important to start out on a positive foot, and we hope teachers become excited about these growth areas,” Hill said. 

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