While Monday’s weather may not have felt like a traditional first day of school, it marked the beginning of the return to in-person learning for some of Juneau’s students.
Kindergarten and first-grade students began returning to elementary schools, along with middle school students who have Monday as their assigned in-person learning day. High school students begin voluntary in-person learning on Tuesday.
“To get to this point took a lot of work through November and December,” said Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss. “We had to do that hard work and hope the numbers stayed low. We had to do all this planning, but if the numbers were high we could not have pulled this off.”
Like many schools across the country, Juneau’s schools have been closed since last March, when the COVID-pandemic forced schools to move instruction online.
The return to in-person learning is voluntary, with a limited schedule driven by grade level. Any student can choose to continue distance learning.
Returning students are meeting in smaller cohorts with social distancing, masks and other mitigation. Students who are returning are doing so on assigned days to keep cohorts small and to allow for social distancing.
“Once we know the mitigation routines are working, we’ll grow the class sizes,” Weiss said. “It’ll look one way for grade school, one way for middle school, one way for high school.”
Weiss noted that the work to get students back in school buildings required a large effort that included obtaining shields for desks, installing air scrubbers, ensuring that masks are available, scheduling changes, technology updates and staff training.
Special education paraprofessional Taylor Larson greeted students arriving by car at Harborview School downtown.
“It’s going well so far,” Larson said. “I’m excited to have the kids here,” noting that she had welcomed 15 to 20 kindergarten students and about five first grade students.
Elementary schools will begin education at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday — not the regular start time, said JSD chief of staff Kristin Bartlett in a phone interview. High schools will begin at 9:15 a.m., and middle schools will begin at 8:30 a.m.
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