Students reentered school Monday morning with distancing strategies and mitigation protocols in place at Floyd Dryden Middle School, Jan. 11, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Students reentered school Monday morning with distancing strategies and mitigation protocols in place at Floyd Dryden Middle School, Jan. 11, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Back in class: Re-entry goes smoothly, says superintendent

More than a thousand students returned to schools this week. There are more to come.

The Juneau School District took the first careful steps toward normal on Monday as students in first grade, middle school and high school returned to classrooms.

“It has been a super good week. It’s been remarkable. Everyone did such a good job planning and preparing that it went super smooth,” said JSD superintendent Dr. Bridget Weiss in a phone interview. “There was some classic first-day kind of things. Buses off schedule here and there. There was minor, minor things that were classic on the first day. We don’t usually do our first day in January.”

Weiss said that students cottoned to new routines and standards smoothly and quickly, aided by community-minded parents.

“I was so impressed. They were remarkable. There was no question about wearing a mask. They did their hand sanitizer when they entered the building,” Weiss said. “They were learning those routines and they were cooperating. Parents have done a really good job preparing kids by having them wear masks in the community.”

[Fundraising goal met for Treadwell Ditch Trail improvements]

About 1,200 students returned to school this week, which will swell to roughly 1,900 by the end of January, Weiss said. About 550 students left Juneau or went to other home-schooling curricula; 400 enrolled with JSD’s own Homebridge program; and about 1,600 students signaled their intent to continue distance learning for the time being, Weiss said.

“We gave our families a choice. It definitely complicates our operations. But it’s what we need to do for our community,” Weiss said. “We’re starting with small cohorts for safety reasons. We’ll grow those slowly.”

Weiss said that schools would rather proceed with care than risk endangering students, staff and the community.

“That’s the thing I’ve heard: we want more. We have to make sure the protocols are working, that the community level is low. We’ll take that next step when we’re ready,” Weiss said. “What we’re doing right now is working really well. We’d rather go slow and steady than do a lot of start-stop start-stop.”

Weiss said the community has been largely supportive, although, as with anything, people have different opinions about how the schools should be reopened.

“One of the pieces of the experience in this pandemic is that every decision has multiple perspectives. This is no different,” Weiss said. “Some people said we didn’t do it soon enough. Some people said we’re so close, why not wait for everyone to get vaccinated.”

The district has considered the balance between getting students back to school and community safety, Weiss said. If the situation requires it, the district has contingencies to isolate an outbreak while more and more staff get vaccinated.

“We’re watching daily the health status in Juneau. We’re also watching the health status in our schools. If we see cases pop up in our schools, we have some options,” Weiss said. “We might have some students and staff quarantine. We might have a school close. If it’s widespread across our schools, we might have to revert as a district.”

Second through fifth graders will phase in over the next two weeks, Weiss said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

More in News

This photo shows a multi-vehicle carport following an early morning fire. (Courtesy Photo / Capital City Fire/Rescue)
Firefighters extinguish early morning carport fire

The fire marshal will investigate.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, contracting with Coastal Helicopters, works to reduce avalanche risk on Thane Road by setting off avalanches in a controlled fashion on Feb. 5, 2021.(Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Thane Road to close Saturday morning for avalanche hazard reduction

Thane Road will be closed for two hours Saturday morning to allow… Continue reading

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Friday, March 5

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Sunday, March 7, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, March 4

The most recent state and local numbers.

Police Car
Police calls for Thursday, March 5, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This Sept. 2008 photo provided by the Center for Whale Research taken near Washington state’s San Juan Islands shows scientists looking for clues about the diet of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas using a pool skimmer to collect the scales or other remains of salmon the whales had eaten. A long-term study published Wednesday, March 3, 2021, reaffirmed the importance of Chinook salmon to the whales even when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast, where the fish are harder to find. (Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research)
Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

That includes fish that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, March 3

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read