UPDATE: Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Friday evening that all K-12 public schools in Alaska will be closed to children through March 30. Read more at AlaskaPublic.org.
Spring break for Ketchikan students has been extended by one week. School district officials say this will let janitors deep-clean school buildings. That’s as school officials prepare for a possible move to distance learning as a public health precaution as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.
State officials announced Alaska’s first case of COVID-19 on Thursday. They said the patient arrived at Ted Stevens International Airport on a cargo flight and was treated in an Anchorage hospital.
Superintendent Beth Lougee asked the school board to extend spring break the following day. The board unanimously voted to adopt the extension.
“This extension to spring break is not based on any specific concern about cases in Ketchikan or our schools. It’s a matter of being proactive and flattening the curve,” she said during an emergency school board meeting Friday afternoon.
So what’s that mean? Essentially, it’s a matter of slowing the spread of the virus.
“Flattening the curve is a term health officials use to explain measures that need to be put in place to slow the rate of infection early after an outbreak,” Lougee said. “By putting in these measures to social-distance each other from others, we can help the community achieve a slower growth in the number of cases, so we have more time and resources to care for our people.”
Lougee says the extension only applies to the student body.
“We are expecting all staff to return to school, Monday March 23,” she said.
Teachers and aides will use the extra week without students to plan for a potential move to remote lessons. But district staff say that decision hasn’t been made yet.