Cluster of COVID-19 cases closes 3 Mat-Su schools

A hallway that would normally be full of elementary school students is empty on the first day of school, August 20, 2020. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Five newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Mat-Su School District pushed three schools into online-only learning mode on Tuesday.

An 11th grader and a 12th grader at Colony High School, a 6th grader and an 8th grader at Colony Middle School, and a 4th grader at Pioneer Peak Elementary School tested positive for the virus.

All of the cases are related, according to each of the schools’ Facebook pages.

As a result, both Colony middle and high schools have moved to distance learning until next Tuesday. The Pioneer Peak Elementary building is also closed, and there will be an update on the length of the closure Wednesday evening, the district said.

Each of the schools will be cleaned, and public health officials will trace the students’ contacts. Families will be notified by the Mat-Su Public Health Department if their child is considered a close contact.

This crop of cases follows a positive case in a 3rd grader at Machentaz Elementary School in Wasilla last week.

Machentaz Elementary has since reopened to in-person learning. But according to district spokesperson Jillian Morrissey, an investigation of that case identified 36 people, including staff and students, as close contacts who are currently quarantined until next week Tuesday.

The investigation also uncovered another positive case, Morrissey said. The district did not confirm whether the additional case was a student or staff member.

The Mat-Su School District is the largest district in the state to resume in-person learning this fall.

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