Some teachers and parents are waiting to hear more about Ketchikan’s new back-to-school plan. That’s following last week’s decision by the school board to overrule recommendations from the superintendent and mandate reopening classrooms five days a week at full capacity.
Gara Cesefske heads up Ketchikan’s local teachers union representing faculty being asked to go back to work five days a week in full classrooms.
“Well, primarily, our staff has voiced concerns with safety,” she said. “We kind of are at the point where we’re acknowledging that there’s no such thing as a safe return to school. So at this point, our language is that we’re looking for the safest option available.”
She says many details about the return to full capacity as the pandemic continues remain unclear. She says district administrators and Ketchikan’s school board have a lot of questions to answer — whether masks will be mandatory, how to maintain distance between students and staff, how staff and students will be screened, and more.
“If you look at our elementary level, where, you know, we have parents come visit classrooms, to what degree are we going to allow that? Is the district still going to rent out certain spaces like, the Kayhi auditorium? What’s it going to look like for parent teacher conferences?” she said.
District officials had proposed using places like the Ketchikan High School auditorium and local churches for extra classroom space. It’s not clear whether that’s an option following the school board’s decision.
Cesefske says she’s meeting with district administrators to discuss the union’s concerns this week. Superintendent Beth Lougee said in an email over the weekend that she anticipates releasing more information Wednesday.
Parents, meanwhile, seem to be split on school reopenings. Jackie Yates is co-president of the Houghtaling Elementary School PTA, and she says she’s been hearing from parents on both sides of the issue.
“One person in particular is really concerned with the 100% startup and how that can follow the social distancing guidelines,” she said, “and another person is ecstatic that kids are going into the classrooms full time. And I think, how can we balance — we’ve been given 100% full start — how can we balance these two parents’ feelings?”
She encourages parents to reach out to their schools’ PTAs with their ideas on the best way to resume school. Parents whose children attend Houghtaling Elementary can contact Yates and co-president Petrina Calvin at email@example.com.