ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Schools in Anchorage will not open for in-person classes in the fall, but will instead begin with online-only learning five days a week as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increases.
Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop announced Friday that increasing cases in the city have propelled the district into a “high-risk scenario” for school operations, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The district is using the average daily new coronavirus case count in Anchorage over a two-week time frame, which jumped Friday to an average of 30 newly confirmed cases daily, she said.
“I felt it was important to make a decision now to provide the maximum amount of time for families, teachers, and staff to plan and make the many necessary arrangements for starting school,” Bishop said in a districtwide email. “ASD will continue to monitor the community health risk on a daily basis and will make another risk-level determination the week prior to Labor Day.”
Students in grades 3-12 will be provided a laptop if needed, and the district will spend money to support Wi-Fi access to families, Bishop said.
Not all of the online coursework will require students to work and learn on their own time, said Jennifer Knutson, senior director of teaching and learning. Teachers will also hold distance learning sessions that include student-teacher interactions and instruction.
The announcement came about a month before the start of the school year on Aug. 20.
Previously, Bishop and other district officials said the schools would hold in-person classes in small groups two days a week in August before switching to in-person classes five days a week in September.
As of Friday, the state health department reported 2,249 COVID-19 cases involving residents and 499 cases involving nonresidents. It has also reported 19 COVID-19-related deaths.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.