Schools are closed, but work goes on

Schools are closed, but work goes on

Students are still learning and on track to graduate

While Juneau’s schools remain physically closed through the end of the school year, instruction has continued and officials say students are on track to advance.

Seniors set to graduate this year will still do so, although there will be no graduation ceremony, according to Bridget Weiss, superintendent for the Juneau School District.

“This is an interesting crisis because it’s so widespread,” Weiss said. “Because this is a national crisis, everyone is working to accommodate (students).”

Teachers have continued to work with their students electronically, Weiss said, and students will be promoted to the next grade level in the fall. Teachers have been told to focus on essential skills students will need in their next grade level, according to Weiss.

Collegeboard, the company which administers the SAT and advanced placement tests across the country canceled the SAT for the Spring and modified its AP exams to cover only material supposed to have been taught by early March, according to the company’s website.

Similarly, the SAT and ACT requirements for the Alaska Performance Scholarship have been waived for the class of 2020.

Students set to graduate from the University of Alaska will still be able to do so, according to Roberta Graham, spokesperson for the university. Issues facing students related to the COVID-19 pandemic were, “all being worked out at the moment,” Graham said.

When Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced schools would remain closed through the end of the school year Thursday, he said the provision saying schools can only carry over 10% of their funding to the next year was being waived.

“School districts may be able to find more savings. This will be an additional tool schools can use,” Dunleavy said at the press conference.

But according to Weiss, there might not be that much money left over, despite the schools being physically closed.

“Most of our costs are personnel, and there are other parts that are more expensive than they would be normally,” she said.

In order to accommodate families with remote access, technology costs for the district have risen. Even in a typical year, most schools’ expenses match their budgeted funds, Weiss said.

“I don’t see the areas where we would be able to save enough to where it would make a difference,” Weiss said.

There is money coming from the federal government through the CARES Act, but the state has not yet told schools how much and when that money might arrive, Weiss said.

“Other than the comments publicly made,” Weiss said, “we haven’t received any official notice.”

Teachers in Juneau’s schools had to get creative with ways to engage their students remotely Weiss said, and the district is trying to find ways to better accommodate students and their families.

The Juneau School District is conducting a survey, Weiss said, to better understand what families are facing and how the school district can help. The survey can be found at the Juneau School District Website.

“This is a work in progress,” Weiss said. “We’re really working hard to be responsive, to be creative. We really want to keep our families informed, the survey is an opportunity to check in now that we’ve been doing this a couple of weeks.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

Information on the coronavirus is available from websites for the City and Borough of Juneau, the State of Alaska at and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider.

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