Parents and guardians have an Aug. 7 deadline for deciding a public education platform for their students.
Superintendent Karen Gaborik urged families to get in touch with the schools in their attendance area to discuss options. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is offering three learning platforms. Some details depend on which option families choose.
“Each school will have to look at what choices families are making and then organize around that,” Gaborik said Wednesday during a live online event.
One of the options is school-supported online learning for the entire 2020-21 school year.
Those students will be assigned to a teacher offering remote instruction and grading assignments. Students could also access school services, such as counseling or the free lunch program, and extracurricular activities at their school under this model.
Another option is a traditional home school program. Under this model, students would register for a separate, parent-led, learning program. The school district offers a program allowing access to some school services. Home school families also get a stipend for education materials.
The third option, the default, involves in-person classes but school hours are being reduced this year. Middle school and high school students will attend classes part-time — with home learning a few days a week — and all schools are closed for the beginning of the academic year. When classes officially start on Aug. 20, learning will begin online.
The school district is calling this approach blended learning, and whether students can attend in-person classes will depend on the COVID-19 outbreak in their area and in the larger borough.
Gaborik said families should be ready for schools to abruptly close for cleaning. Students with a wide range of symptoms, including common cold symptoms, such as a cough, will need to be kept at home.
“The healthier that we can stay, the more likely it is that we can have kids in school,” Gaborik said.
She talked about opening schools to in-person classes with a phased approach, starting with students with intensive needs.
“Our goal is to have kids in school, and we just have to deal with the ebb and flow of this pandemic,” the superintendent said. “I don’t want people to get sick. I don’t want there to be deaths. I don’t want our district to contribute to a situation that puts our community at risk.”
A special school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 31 when the board will reassess whether to open schools.
Gaborik said students could move from one learning platform to another but she discouraged flip-flopping.
“We don’t want anybody to wait too long in a situation that is not working out too well,” she said. “We don’t want kids to fall through the cracks.”
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.