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March 12 | District Message regarding COVID-19

Hello District Families and Staff,

As you are likely aware, the U.S. Department of the State, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and the State of Alaska have recently updated their information and guidance regarding COVID-19.  As the various federal and state agencies provide new guidance, we are updating our response accordingly. Although there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska as of March 11, prevention is the key to mitigating spread of the virus in Alaska.

This email provides the highlights of our current district response.  I strongly encourage you to visit the Coronavirus page on our district website to find out more information and to access state and national resources.  

I thank all of you who have reached out to my office via email and phone.  Due to the large number of contacts, we may not be able to respond personally.  We will, however, continue to update our website and send out information to families and staff as the situation evolves.  I encourage parents and guardians to contact your school for specific information about any of the topics below.

Best Regards,

Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent

School Closure

As of this writing, the school district is not “extending” spring break or closing schools the week of March 16.  The status of the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid, however, and new information comes in daily. If the situation at a specific school or district wide requires more assertive measures, we will consider school closure.  We will stay in close contact with the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services regarding our potential closure. Parents and guardians can of course always make the personal choice to keep their student at home.  Contact your school principal to let them know about the absence.

In the event that the decision is made to close school, you will be notified using the same channels that we use for notice of other emergency closures (i.e., closures due to inclement weather). If there are any decisions made to close schools, we will inform our community immediately via phone call, email, text, the district website, and our official social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We have asked our Nutrition Services Department to develop a plan to potentially provide meals for our free and reduced lunch students, in the event of a closure.  Although I don’t have details yet regarding our capacity to address this concern, we will do our best to meet the ongoing nutritional needs of our students who rely on these services.

School Cleaning

We are recruiting additional, temporary custodial staff to increase our after-hours cleaning efforts and ensure daily sanitization of high touchpoint areas (places that are touched frequently throughout the day).

Social Distancing

According to the CDC, social distancing involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance” whenever possible to limit the ability of the virus to spread.  The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying an infection, and others who are not infected, so as to minimize transmission.

The district will begin implementing social distancing measures.  This will be reflected in the postponement or cancellation of events.  Every event with anticipated participation of 50 or more people will be reviewed.  Smaller events will be considered as well.

Travel

As of March 12, all district-sponsored travel is suspended for both students and staff.  Contact has been made with district activity organizers. Numerous state and national organizers have already cancelled events, and more cancellations are occurring daily.

Sports and Activities After School Hours

All sporting events, co-curricular events, and after school activities will be reviewed.  Watch the district webpage for updated information, postponements, and cancellations. Principals will communicate with event organizers.

Events scheduled in district venues by outside user groups will be reviewed.  Our first priority in a school building after school hours is to sanitize the learning environment.  Our second priority is social distancing. Events scheduled in school and district venues may be cancelled if they are contrary to these two priorities.

Activities and Events During School Hours

All events scheduled during school hours will be reviewed.  Starting immediately, whole-school assemblies will be cancelled.  Principals will be asked to minimize or eliminate large-group gatherings.  Alternate ways to communicate and participate will be encouraged.

Sick Students

Schools will contact the parents and guardians of students exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and ask them to take their student home.  Students whose parents or guardians are unable to pick them up immediately will be accomodated in a room away from other students until their ride does arrive, or until the end of the school day.

Immunocompromised Students and Adults

Parents and guardians are encouraged to make the personal family decisions necessary to protect the wellness of their children and themselves.  If you decide to keep your student at home to minimize contact with other students and with staff, contact the school to excuse your student’s absence and work with the teacher and principal regarding continuity of instruction.  

School Buses

First Student is the contact for specific response information related to school buses.  Their main office number is 907-456-6921.

Absences

School absence messages will be updated to include a request for information about why a student is absent.  We request that parents and guardians let schools know if a student is absent due to flu-like or respiratory illness.

Sick, at Risk or Immunocompromised Staff

Staff who are ill need to stay home.  If you are immunocompromised, over 60 years of age or have other chronic health conditions, contact your immediate supervisor.  All questions and concerns should be directed to your school principal or immediate supervisor.

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March 12 Health Alert: Community Mitigation

Alaska DHSS sent this bulletin at 03/12/2020 10:56 AM AKDT

**COVID-19 HEALTH ALERT**

Issued March 12, 2020

By: Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer, State of Alaska 

In order to prevent or slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the State of Alaska is recommending all Alaskans become familiar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on community mitigation. We are advising Alaskans to implement protective measures outlined in the “preparedness phase” and to strongly consider implementing the “minimal to moderate” activities (see page 3). Examples of social distancing strategies that should be followed now include:

For the General Public

  • Stay home if you are sick with a respiratory illness. If you develop a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is coughing, sneezing, or feeling feverish.
  • Avoid large gatherings and crowded places as much as possible.
  • Avoid shaking hands and hugging as much as possible.
  • If you live in a rural area, consider limiting non-essential travel to protect your community.

For High-Risk Groups

  • This group includes persons aged 60 years and over, and persons with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or other immune compromising illnesses.
  • When you go out in public, try to maintain at least 6 feet distance from people – especially from people who are sick.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible, especially large gatherings.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

For Businesses and Employers

  • Use videoconferencing for meetings when possible.
  • When not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces.
  • Consider adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings
  • Assess the risks of business travel.
  • Encourage liberal leave policies and teleworking options for staff.

For Schools

  • Consider adjusting or postponing gatherings that mix between classes, grades, and other schools.
  • Adjust after-school arrangements to avoid mixing between classes, grades, and other schools.

Considerations for Event Planners

For Religions and Faith-based Organizations

Guidance on community mitigation: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf