Kodiak Island Borough School district is releasing students early from school on Wednesday and Thursday to train staff to continue teaching remotely, in the event schools need to be shut down as a precaution against the coronavirus.
Superintendent Larry LeDoux said distance learning will involve iPads for every child in the district, delivering breakfast and lunch to children at home and providing parents with support as well.
“Certainly there’ll be a number of snags, but we have technical support people standing by to support parents with needs. We’ll have a call center open at night. We’re translating a lot of our documents into other languages to support folks that have never used a computer before. So we’re really doing a lot of brainstorming.”
LeDoux said the district estimates that 97 percent of students have access to the internet, but if a shutdown does occur, they plan to provide internet connections for households that don’t have them.
Training parents to help with distance learning is most essential for elementary-age students, said LeDoux. In the shutdown scenario the district is planning for — but hopes never comes — he says he recognizes the difficulty this will place on families.
“If we close the schools, we realize that it’s going to make it very, very difficult for families whose parents both work to support the needs of their children. We don’t really have a lot of options … If we close the schools, it’s going to affect everything in this town.”
Closing down schools would not be a decision made lightly. Because of statutory requirements to educate Alaskan children, LeDoux says closing schools in the next few weeks or months, would mean extending the school year into the summer to make up lost time.
“We also feel that would be severely disruptive because teachers have plans, they would have to cancel families would have to cancel plans, graduation would be restricted until the summer and it would be very, very difficult for us to deliver a comprehensive education plan if we just closed the schools.”
For now, LeDoux says the district will continue to communicate with families through email, phone calls and social media. Any decisions to close schools will be based on recommendations from the Alaska Chief Medical Officer and the local medical community, he says.