Alaska education leaders, state officials detail preparations for new school year
ANCHORAGE – The House Education Committee today heard testimony from Alaska education leaders and state officials on the challenges ahead for schools preparing to safely teach 130,000 students amid a global pandemic.
“These are unprecedented times, and Alaska’s families, children, teachers, school districts, and Department of Education are all navigating uncharted waters,” said Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), co-chair of the Education Committee. “It’s reassuring that everyone understands first and foremost, our priority is the health and well-being of our children and teachers. We cannot expect our kids to learn if they do not feel safe.”
“I’m pleased to hear our superintendents and school board members have flexible plans in place to promote learning in this complicated time,” added Rep. Andi Story (D-Juneau), co-chair of the Education Committee. “Practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home if you’re sick will allow more in-person learning.”
A few of the major factors being considered by school leaders and state officials:
“During this unprecedented pandemic, my number one concern will always be the safety of Alaskans. We know that rural communities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks because regions are dispersed and healthcare resources are limited,” added Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel). “While I am grateful to hear the State is coordinating with local public health officials and school districts to create return-to-school plans that work for individual districts, we need to be sure that educators aren’t forced to make decisions with major public health and safety implications.”
“This school year will be a balancing act for educators, students, and Alaskan families,” Rep. Grier Hopkins(D-Fairbanks) said. “The hard work that our school districts have been putting in to keep the physical and mental health of their students, staff and communities safe was apparent in their planning. Now, we must ensure that we move forward with the best on the ground medical information available. This will be a practice in understanding, flexibility and equitable opportunities as the school year progresses. The collaboration so far between state and local officials is promising, and we need to continue working together to keep our children and communities safe and educated.”
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