The Juneau School District released its plan for the start of the 2020 / 2021 school year.
Superintendent Bridget Weiss says the plan follows state guidelines for what will be the largest sanctioned public gatherings in Juneau since the pandemic began.
“We have built-in many mitigation factors in order to put us in the best position to be successful and be able to maintain some face-to-face instruction, as well as possibly grow into more face-to-face time with students,” said Weiss.
But that face-to-face time all depends on the risk level. The plan defines three levels from low to high.
Low risk (green) means there is no increase in reported cases in Juneau within the last two weeks. Medium risk (yellow) means a minimal number of cases as determined by the community. High risk (red) would mean a significant outbreak.
The plan says the district will likely begin the school year at a yellow, or medium, risk level.
“The most responsible thing we can do is start in a place that is most likely to secure face-to-face learning for a longer period of time and that we don’t end up in a risk situation in Juneau, where we end up having to go to full distance delivery,” said Weiss.
According to the plan, elementary students will be physically in the classroom four days a week for half days. There will be a morning group and an afternoon group.
High school and middle school students will be in classes for two full days a week but will be in A and B groups to allow for social distancing. The rest of the week, they will learn from home.
The district plans to clean rooms in between groups, including wiping down desks, chairs and any community areas. Staff will also increase ventilation and limit student movements.
Students will stay home on Wednesdays for distance learning, while the school is cleaned and teachers prepare for their classes.
“It’s really a matter of layering several mitigation pieces together. It’s not any one mitigation strategy that’s going to keep us safe. It really is the combination and blend of strategies as we move ahead,” said Weiss.
In addition to the schedule changes, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings and students will be encouraged to wear cloth masks at school. Social distancing will be prioritized in the hallways and on buses.
The district’s website says the plan will be updated as needed. Classes are scheduled to start August 17, though the district is considering delaying that start to August 24.
A previous version of this story stated that students will be in classes four days a week but did not specify that this only applies to elementary school students. The district’s plan states that high school and middle school students will only attend classes in-person two days a week while learning from home the rest of the week. The story has been corrected.