Anchorage School District expects thousands of students to return to classrooms this week

A female teacher points to a word projected on a white board in a classroom with three students sitting a tables facing the front of the classroom
Aurora Elementary teacher Brianna Lundberg helps second graders sound out words during the after school tutoring program in Anchorage on October 23, 2020. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

After icy road conditions delayed the Anchorage School District’s plan to return students to school buildings Tuesday, the district expects about 8,000 students in classrooms Wednesday morning as it begins a phased return to in-person learning.

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But at Tuesday’s school board meeting, District Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said that’s a rough estimate.

“What’s really difficult is that we’ve got families that are still kind of waiting and see,” he said. “We’re seeing ASD Virtual numbers bump up by the hundreds in the last few days as people think it through. So it’s hard to come up with even an estimate, of exactly how many are going to physically show up.”

As school gets underway, the district plans to make COVID-19 testing available for symptomatic students and staff at a number of school sites. But Health Services Director Jennifer Patronas said some of those sites aren’t ready, due to permitting and logistical issues. 

However, Patronas said the district has obtained 20 rapid testing machines from the state that can provide COVID-19 test results in minutes. That’s up from the two machines they initially had. 

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“Right now, we have 15 of them dispatched, and the nurses are ready to begin that rapid PCR testing immediately,” Patronas said. “Five more of those machines are here at the ED center. And those nurses will be getting trained later on this week. So we’re excited about that.”

District school buildings have been closed since March 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Wednesday will be the first time many students have seen the inside of a classroom in-person this school year.

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