The Juneau Board of Education met July 14, 2020 to discuss plans for the upcoming school year. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The Juneau Board of Education met July 14, 2020 to discuss plans for the upcoming school year. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

School board approves mask policy, later start date

The school board also confirmed Dr. Bridget Weiss for another three years.

The Juneau School District Board of Education finalized its reopening schedule and the district’s mask policy in a meeting Tuesday night.

“It’s a very complex plan. There are many pieces that we are still developing,” said Superintendent Bridget Weiss. “Getting it out there feels very important so our community, and staff can begin to process what it looks like.”

Schools will reopen on a staggered schedule for students on Aug. 24, a week later than usual, said board President Brian Holst in a phone interview.

“The school will be starting for students one week later. The teachers will be starting on the regular schedule,” Holst said. “School will look different than it did in the spring. There will still be a component of distance learning. The expectation is that kids will be getting their education.”

Weiss said the district will work to balance safety and the educational needs of the students. But many have deep concerns about returning to in-person learning.

“There is no safe way to resume in-person instruction,” said Chris Cairns with the Juneau Educational Support Staff during the public comments section. “Any level of in-person interaction introduces a level of risk of death or disability to our students.”

Others voiced worries about the risk to teachers and the plans in place to mitigate the threat.

“More than one in three members of our group have members of their household that are considered high-risk. We would like to have some clearer information given to our members,” said Amy Lloyd of the Juneau Education Association. “Of those who completed our survey, only 13% indicated that they were happy with the plan as is.”

“Masks, or similar facial coverings designed to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, are required for all persons on Juneau School District grounds, at District facilities, or at District sponsored events effective immediately,” reads the policy. “The Superintendent has the authority to grant exceptions to this policy.”

Holst said there will certainly be exceptions for certain activities, such as playing certain instruments or for students with health issues that make a mask difficult.

“There is a mask policy that we all agreed to that will start immediately,” Holst said. “There’s a general policy and there’s a specific clause within the policy where the superintendent can grant exceptions.”

The board also reconfirmed Weiss as superintendent for a three-year term Tuesday night, Holst said, lauding her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Board of Education feels that our schools are in excellent hands under the direction of Dr. Weiss and the capable team of administrators and staff she leads. She has demonstrated excellent communication and problem-solving skills during the ongoing COVID-19 disruption,” Holst said in a news release from the district. “Dr. Weiss’s collaborative approach has enabled us to put into place a new strategic plan and increased partnerships to achieve our goals for Juneau’s students.”

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

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