Second grade teacher Katie Koski reacts to the news that a student lost a tooth and was visited by the Tooth Fairy, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Juneau’s students started this school year with distance learning. In January, some students started attending partial, in-person learning. Late Thursday, district officials announced a broader return to in-person learning for elementary school students. Starting next week, students will attend four full days each week. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Second grade teacher Katie Koski reacts to the news that a student lost a tooth and was visited by the Tooth Fairy, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Juneau’s students started this school year with distance learning. In January, some students started attending partial, in-person learning. Late Thursday, district officials announced a broader return to in-person learning for elementary school students. Starting next week, students will attend four full days each week. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

District expands schedule for in-person learning for elementary schools

School is in session.

Juneau’s elementary school students will soon be returning to school for four full days each week, district officials announced late Thursday.

This schedule replaces a prior plan for expanded learning that called for students to attend four half-days from early April through the end of the school year. The newly expanded school day will begin April 5 at several schools with the remaining buildings expanding beginning April 12.

“I realize this is a quick change, but we are very excited to be making a move in this direction, increasing our in-person learning time for kids,” Superintendent Bridget Weiss said in an email to parents.

District officials said that updated bus information would be available Friday afternoon. Families that need more time to plan for the new schedule should contact the school their child attends to discuss options.

Due to COVID-19, in-person school has not been in regular session since March 2020. In January, some students started returning to in-person learning on a limited schedule while participating in distance learning. Students are currently finishing a week of virtual learning instituted to facilitate quarantine for families that traveled over spring break.

“As we all start to emerge from this pandemic, increasing instruction time for our students and expanding in-person attendance is an important step toward academic and social/emotional recovery,” Weiss said in the email.

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New CDC guidance prompted the change

As spring break was beginning in Juneau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance for virus mitigation in classroom settings.

According to the new recommendations, schools can safely operate with three feet of distance between students rather than six, as long as students practice universal masking in classroom settings.

In the email, Weiss said that the updated guidance paved the way for schools to open more fully.

“We have worked hard all year to keep you abreast of changes with plenty of time to plan. The timing of this new CDC guidance and our amazing community status in “green” provide us the opportunity to expand and we don’t want to delay,” Weiss said in the email.

Summer break to include school for some Juneau students

Who starts when

Beginning April 5, students will attend Auke Bay, Riverbend, Montessori Borealis, Juneau Community Charter School, Mendenhall River and Sayéik: Gastineau, according to the regular school schedule every weekday except Wednesday, which will continue to be an independent learning day, the email said. Kindergarten and first grade students at Harborview will also return to four full days beginning April 5.

Beginning April 12, Tlingit Culture Language and Literacy students, Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱ Glacier Valley, and second, through fifth grade students at Harborview will return to full-day instruction.

School district officials did not announce changes to the middle school or high school schedules. The middle school recently moved to two days of in-person instruction each week. High school students have the option of attending up to three days of in-person instruction each week.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

Learning bundles await pickup at Riverbend Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Principal Elizabeth Pisel-Davis said the materials ensure that not all learning is done via screens. Materials include things such as sketch books and math manipulative materials--objects that allow students to work out match concepts with physical items. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

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