Some Juneau elementary school students are going back to school 4 days a week

Tanner Cooper eyes his lunch at Sayéik Gastineau Community School where he and his sister returned for in-person learning on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
Tanner Cooper eyes his lunch at Sayéik Gastineau Community School where he and his sister returned for in-person learning on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Some Juneau elementary school students are returning to a nearly normal school schedule starting as soon as Monday.

Most schools are just finishing a full week of distance learning as a precaution after spring break travel. So, it came as a surprise to some parents when the Juneau School District announced that it plans to have elementary students attend in-person classes four full days a week.

Auke Bay, Riverbend, Montessori Borealis, Juneau Community Charter School, Mendenhall River and Sayéik: Gastineau Community School will start the new schedule on April 5. Harborview Elementary students in second- through fifth-grade, all Tlingit Culture Language and Literacy students, and students at Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱ Glacier Valley start on April 12.

Wednesday will continue to be an independent learning day.

For Sanjay Pyare, it’s welcome news. He said his kids have been tapped out on remote learning after a full year of distance learning.

“It’s going to be a lot more effective for the teacher,” Pyare said. “And for the teacher to go back and ask questions and zero in on students and whatnot, and how much they’re picking up.”

Pyare also said it will give his kids more of an opportunity to have a social life.

“Just being able to goof off and be kids in a normal environment is a healthy thing,” he said.

Superintendent Bridget Weiss said the decision is an important step toward students’ academic, social and emotional recovery.

She said the district will be flexible as families adjust to the change in the next few weeks. Distance learning will still be available for families who have decided not to return to in-person classes.

Kristin Bartlett with the school district said the minimal risk level in the community and recently updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to the decision.

The district is going by the CDC’s recently updated guidelines to keep students at least three feet distanced, instead of six feet, throughout most of the day. Mitigation measures such as masking will continue to be implemented.

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