Teachers greeted students as they reentered school on Jan. 11 with distancing strategies and mitigation protocols in place at Floyd Dryden Middle School. After several months of partial week attendance to accommodate student cohorts, the school district is expanding in-person learning opportunities. Next week, middle and high school students will return to in-person school four days each week. Many elementary school students returned to four days this week. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Teachers greeted students as they reentered school on Jan. 11 with distancing strategies and mitigation protocols in place at Floyd Dryden Middle School. After several months of partial week attendance to accommodate student cohorts, the school district is expanding in-person learning opportunities. Next week, middle and high school students will return to in-person school four days each week. Many elementary school students returned to four days this week. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

School district announces expansion of in-person learning

Middle and high school students to attend four days a week

Beginning April 12, Juneau’s middle and high school students will be returning to school four days a week, school district officials announced in an email to parents late last week.

The change expands the in-person high school schedule by one day and the middle school schedule by two days. Wednesday will remain a distance-learning day at all levels.

The announcement was made shortly after school officials said that elementary school students would attend four full days until the school year ends next month — marking a change from the previously announced plan to host students on site for four half-days each week.

District expands schedule for in-person learning for elementary schools

“We are happy that for the first time in the school year, we are able to meet the needs of those students and families who want to attend full days in person,” Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff at the district, said in an email to the Empire.

Due to COVID-19, in-person school has not been in session since March 2020. In January, some students started returning to in-person learning on a limited schedule.

As in-person school has expanded, district officials report positive feedback from families.

“The feedback so far has been positive — largely from families whose children are very excited about going back to school full days and are ready to take the next step in increasing in-person learning,” Bartlett said.

School district announces student-focused vaccine clinics

New CDC guidance prompted the change

In mid-March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance for virus mitigation in classrooms for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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 to parents last week, Superintendent Bridget Weiss said the updated guidance paved the way for schools to open more fully.

Distance learning option continues

Students who prefer to continue distance learning may do so through the end of the year.

“There are some families who are not yet ready to go back in person for extended periods of time or into classrooms with expanded numbers of students. Distance learning will still be available through the end of the school year. Families can decide what works best for their specific circumstances,” Bartlett said. “We won’t have a clear picture of how many students will continue to take advantage of distance learning until all of the school’s transition to full days next week,” she said.

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

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