Schools won’t open for in-person learning on the Central Kenai Peninsula as scheduled on Monday, Aug. 24, but the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area has an answer.
It has opened Nikiski Recreation Center facilities up for study hall and remote learning, free of charge, Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. People need to call ahead and make a reservation at 907-776-8800. The center is located at Mile 23.4 of the Kenai Spur Highway.
In other words, students won’t be able to sit together in classrooms, but they can at least see each other at the recreation center, while their teachers are safe at home, teaching remotely.
“Kids are essential,” said Mayor Charlie Pierce. “The rec center is open to students of all ages. The Internet is provided. Kids who are in the 6th grade and younger must have an adult or family member 16 years or older with them. They’re doing the social distancing and cleaning. The pool at the rec center is also open,” he said.
Superintendent of KPB schools John O’Brien closed down schools from Kasilof to Sterling, saying that the schools are in high-risk zones for the coronavirus pandemic. Only vulnerable students will be able to attend classes in person. That includes special education and young children who have performed poorly on tests and are considered “Title 1” students.
“In the SmartStart plan, Special Education PreK; Title I PreK; Kindergarten; and certain groups of students in special education will be able to attend school in person. Bus transportation will continue for students in special education who already receive special education bussing services. In all other instances, transportation will need to be provided by parents or guardians during high-risk levels,” the district wrote.
Offering predictability for our families, staff, and communities is tricky during a global pandemic,” O’Brien said in his announcement last week. “I’ve made the difficult decision to suspend opening schools in central peninsula to onsite at school learning on August 24, 2020. I know how hard this is for our students who are excited to return to school, for families, and for our staff. I’ve looked at the science-based guidance to assist in our decision-making process, consulted with our KPBSD COVID19 Risk Level Medical Advisory Group, and am following our SmartStart plan.
“I am disappointed the positive case count appears to be trending with increases in high risk levels. Every day we will evaluate risk level trends and actual counts. To aid planning for families and eliminate a ping-pong effect back and forth between risk levels, I hope that if case levels in the central peninsula drop to a medium risk level, we can open schools to onsite learning after Labor Day, on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. We will continue providing district level updates every week, plus each school will communicate directly with their families.”
Cases of COVID-19 on the Kenai have trended up, with fishing season underway and an influx of people from outside the region. But the number of cases of the coronavirus are still quite low, averaging about six cases per day across the entire borough over the past seven days. The borough is 24,700 square miles and is home to about 59,000 Alaskans.
The schools affected by the campus closures include:
- Aurora Borealis Charter School
- Kaleidoscope Charter School
- K-Beach Elementary School
- Kenai Alternative School
- Kenai Central High School
- Kenai Middle School
- Mountain View Elementary School
- Nikiski Middle-High School
- Nikiski North Star Elementary School
- Redoubt Elementary School
- River City Academy
- Skyview Middle School
- Soldotna Elementary School
- Soldotna High School
- Soldotna Montessori Charter School
- Sterling Elementary School
- Other North: Tustumena Elementary School
All sports competitions in the central peninsula are cancelled, including Kenai Central High School; Nikiski Middle-High School; Soldotna High School; Aurora Borealis Charter School; Kenai Middle School; and Skyview Middle School. KPBSD follows ASAA Return-to-Practice Protocols.
Kenai Central High School, Skyview High School, and Soldotna High School pools are closed to public use.