The Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education voted 6-1 on Monday to begin the 2020-21 year with online learning.
Superintendent Karen Gaborik told the board that a committee working on plans for the coming school year will focus on what delivering education to students at home will look like.
“We’re right on the cusp of red right now,” Gaborik told the school board, referring to a risk assessment framework for determining if it’s safe to open public schools.
Green means low risk. Yellow means moderate risk. Red is high risk.
“I think we need to start fully remote and just wait and see where the cases go,” Gaborik said.
Under their contract, teachers return to work on Aug. 10. School starts Aug. 20.
Matthew Sampson was the board member who voted no for beginning school with remote learning. He wants families to have the option of sending their students to school.
The special meeting of the school board stretched more than six hours. They spent a lot of time discussing details for how to open schools while mitigating risks involved with the coronavirus pandemic.
Administrators are looking at various systems, including transportation and nutrition, and how to deliver those services in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19.
The board also read emails — many from teachers expressing fears about opening schools and potential exposure to COVID-19.
Gaborik recommended a system where schools would be open when the 14-day average count of new cases for the borough is below 10.
Melanie Hadaway, executive director of Teaching & Learning, said home learning will likely involve a mix of online learning platforms and teacher-provided content and instruction.
“We’ve had teachers spending a lot of time really working on a planning a variety of scenarios,” Hadaway said.
She said the home learning model will depend in part on how many families opt for remote learning for the entire school year versus families that want to send students to in-person classes when available.
Some teachers will focus on online teaching entirely and may oversee students from multiple schools, Hadaway said.
The school district is preparing to provide computer devices, and in some cases internet routers, to families in need.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.