Ketchikan School District Superintendent Beth Lougee on Tuesday presented the Ketchikan School Board with new changes to the district’s Smart Start 2020 fall reopening plan.

The board approved the draft reopening plan at its May 27 regular meeting. Under that plan, students in the district would resume school in the fall using a mixture of remote and in-person learning methods according to the community’s risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.

Parents in the district criticized the reopening plan at the board’s June 10 regular meeting; a common concern was the efficacy and efficiency of remote learning.

Extended learning opportunities

Lougee said the district will provide “extended learning opportunities” for preschool and elementary level students during the days students are not learning in classrooms.

“Extended learning opportunities are not a replacement for classroom instruction,” a presentation slide explained. “Rather, they are meant to keep students engaged academically while at a separate location working on math, reading, writing skills, arts, music, band, field trips, swimming lessons, etc.”

The district had released information about ELOs prior to Tuesday’s work session as part of a Frequently Asked Questions page for its Smart Start plan, but Lougee clarified Tuesday that parents wouldn’t need to be working for their children to participate in ELOs.

Remote learning day moved

Lougee announced that the district would be moving its designated remote learning days to Fridays.

Under the draft version of the plan approved by the School Board last month, all students would learn remotely on Wednesdays, and teachers would participate in professional development workshops on Wednesday afternoons. Fridays will now be designated for that same purpose, Lougee said.

A district survey of parents released last week found that more than 70% of parents would prefer to have distance learning opportunity days on Fridays.

Reconsidering medium risk plan

The district plans to reexamine the reopening scenario with a medium community risk to determine whether more students could be allowed to attend school in person.

The May 27 draft reopening plan would have 25% of students learning in person with a medium community risk level. Students would be broken into four groups, with one group attending school in person per day. Under the low-risk scenario, 50% of students would be able to learn in person.

Lougee said the district is investigating whether schools could operate at 50% capacity under the medium-risk plan. District staff will consider whether other factors could be modified to reduce student risk when the community risk is higher, such as limiting student mobility within the schools.

Other information

Lougee said the district will not announce any more changes to the community’s coronavirus risk levels until later in the summer, when school is closer to starting again.

The district had initially announced the risk levels to help illustrate to families how new cases of COVID-19 would affect the district, Lougee said. She said the information instead had been confusing for many parents, and consequently she decided to stop issuing risk level updates.

Also, Lougee said, the district plans to recommend, but not require, that students wear masks when learning in classrooms.

Meeting resources

An archived video recording of Tuesday’s work session can be found on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s website at bit.ly/3fT4XpA.

The district’s Smart Start FAQ page can be found on the district’s website at kgbsd.org/Page/5845.