School Board hosts Monday work session

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Board of Education is holding a work session via video conference on Monday evening.

The session is set to cover school closure and legislative updates. It begins at 6 p.m. and is being hosted out of the Administrative Center at 520 Fifth Ave.

The public can attend in-person attendance, provided attendance is within the guidelines of the state of Alaska COVID-19 Mandates 009 & 009.1, join a livestream at streaming.k12northstar.org, listen to real-time audio provided from k12northstar.org, watch the meeting televised live on GCI Cable on channel 14 or listen to the recording available the next day at k12northstar.org.

Denali Recovery Alliance forms in Denali Borough

The Denali Chamber of Commerce has formed a new group called Denali Recovery Alliance so the community can work together to address changes in the upcoming tourism season, sure to be affected by the coronavirus.

“There will be a lot of difficult decisions ahead for individuals, businesses and our borough as a whole,” chamber director Vanessa Jusczak said in an email sent to chamber members and community organizations. “But I do believe that as a collective, working toward the same goal, we can better prepare and serve our community.”

Generally, the tourist season in the Denali Borough, which includes Denali National Park, runs May through September. Many businesses are already experiencing cancellations for 2020 and the potential loss of cruise ship travelers casts a further cloud over the season.

The group is newly-formed and seeks participation from small and large tourism operators, local industry, local service providers, nonprofits and government entities. Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker has expressed interest in being a full partner in this endeavor, Jusczak said.

Meeting times are not yet scheduled, but will be arranged as conditions warrant, Jusczak said. Meetings may initially be held weekly and progress to biweekly, monthly and then quarterly as needed.

For more information, email recovery@denalichamber.com.

Denali School Board President: ‘This is an opportunity for us to be role models.’

The Denali Borough School Board held its first virtual meeting online Wednesday night to officially close all the Denali Borough schools until May 1. That closure has already happened, but the official board vote needed to be put on the record.

Seventeen people tuned in to the meeting and hear board members share their feelings about how the global pandemic is affecting education in the Denali Borough.

“This is an opportunity for us to be role models,” said James Tench, president of the board. “Our youth especially, will look back at this period of time. Some of the things they’ll remember most is not what we tried to teach them but the way adults and other role models around them rose to the challenge.”

“I feel like the world has been kicked into tomorrow’s world and forced to deal with things none of us want to deal with,” said board member Dawn Adams.

Teachers are working this week to finalize distance delivery to students. Superintendent Dan Polta said First Student bus service may help deliver student materials as the new system emerges.

Polta closed the meeting by sharing these comments from Education Commissioner Johnson: “Now more than ever, we need to offer each other grace. Sometimes give yourself grace. Give your teachers some grace too. A lot of them are not just teachers. They are also your community members going through the same crisis. They are also parents now in charge of managing education of their own children.”

Criminal activity decrease?

Local law enforcement agencies say it’s too soon to tell if the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting criminal activity in the Fairbanks area, but anecdotal evidence suggests patterns have shifted slightly.

“With some of the bigger stores (like Walmart) limiting their hours, late night calls have dropped off some,” Fairbanks police spokeswoman Teal Soden said Wednesday. “Day shift is getting about the same amount of calls, but FPD is doing as much as they can over the phone, so they aren’t actually responding to the scene as much unless it is necessary.”

Soden said police are they are trying to handle things over the phone in an effort to limit their contact with the public.

“This is for their safety and the safety of those they are helping in the community.”

Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said the main problem troopers have encountered are weather-related.

“The weather is causing a lot of issues for us right now. Between the weather and the hunker down orders, people should only be going out if they absolutely have to! Please remind your readers to drive cautiously and at safe speeds if they decide to brave the roadways.”

Peters said calls for service are down “but our troopers are pretty busy with things like disturbances and thefts.”