The Anchorage School District is likely to start off its school year next month with online-only classes, scrapping its plans to begin limited in-person instruction amid a surge in cases of COVID-19.
That’s not the case for the private, independent Pacific Northern Academy, which said in a message to families on Wednesday afternoon that it plans to begin in-person classes on Aug. 19. Pacific Northern Academy said it’s well-suited to reopen.
“Many of the obstacles facing ASD — large classes, crowded buildings, transportation — are not problems for us,” explained the Head of School Laurie Hoefer. “Through Create Academy and summer preschool, we have proven that with careful planning, revised procedures, and new practices we can provide students a healthy environment to interact and learn. We are working to create a safe ‘bubble’ for our families.”
Pacific Northern Academy serves students from early education through 8th grade and charges tuition ranging from $13,900 to $18,468 for the year, according to its website. The school has capacity for 125 students with a 10-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.
The opening plans include a four-and-a-half-day week with care available for that half day, daily health screenings, limited-to-no interaction with other classes to limit exposure and a staggered start time for students. At previous legislative hearings, teachers have called for small class sizes, staggered starts and frequent testing to limit the risk of spread.
The Anchorage School District had planned to begin in-person instruction with two days a week but scrapped the plans when the city’s daily case count hit the upper limit of what’s considered acceptable risk for any in-person classes. The surging cases have raised concerns about the safety of not just students but teachers, faculty and families.
“Do you want the last page in the 2021 yearbook to be an ‘in memoriam’ page for all the students and teachers lost to COVID-19?” Vicki McCall, a library teacher at Baxter Elementary, said at a Tuesday school board meeting, according to a report by the Anchorage Daily News.
It’s a dreaded situation that’s left many families in search of options for education and childcare with the start of the school year around the corner. About 400 families so far have signed up for the district’s online-only education program.
In the message to families, PNA Head of School Laurie Hoefer said it’s created “an onslaught of applications” for the private program.