Anchorage School District still plans to resume in-person learning for younger students on Nov. 16

Students at Aurora Elementary School in Anchorage sing a song about proper handwashing techniques on Oct. 23, 2020. Aurora is one of the schools in the Anchorage School District holding after-school tutoring. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School District still plans to resume in-person learning in about two weeks for its younger and higher-needs special education students.

That’s according to an email Superintendent Deena Bishop sent Sunday evening to families. Bishop has been emailing school status updates on the first and 15th of every month. Sunday’s update comes as the number of known coronavirus cases continues to skyrocket in the city, and as the district faces criticism from some for its decision to bring kids back to classrooms given the state of the pandemic.

Bishop defended the district’s plan to resume in-person learning in Sunday’s message.

“I acknowledge the range of opinions around this decision and the valid concerns surrounding the rise in cases in our community,” she wrote. “However, I am convinced by growing evidence in our own District and across the country that students’ learning outcomes and other important social emotional needs are better served when they are physically in schools.”

Bishop first announced in mid-October that the school district would resume in-person instruction for students in pre-K through 2nd grade at its roughly five dozen elementary schools on Nov. 16. Higher-needs special education students through sixth grade go back the same day, as well as students at the Whaley School.

In Sunday’s email, Bishop wrote that families can choose whether to send students back to in-person school. Those who don’t want to return should enroll in the ASD Virtual Program, she wrote. Or, if families want to wait to decide, a team of teachers and principals are finalizing a plan for video-based reading and math lessons.

Also, Bishop wrote, the district will post on its website each elementary school’s health and safety plan for in-person instruction by Wednesday. Teachers and staff will be trained on the new protocols during an in-service day on Tuesday.

“We understand the risks, and though we cannot eliminate them, we have gone to great lengths to plan for mitigation,” Bishop wrote.

Bishop asked families with children in pre-K through second grade to fill out a survey they should have received from principals about whether they’ll return to in-person instruction. Those answers will help schools make decisions on staffing and measures to keep students farther apart, Bishop wrote.


Alaska Public Media

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