All schools in the Anchorage School District will remain closed for one week after spring break in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Deena Bishop announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon. Students were supposed to return to class Monday.
Extending the break is an effort to implement social-distancing and slow the spread of the virus, according to the district.
The extended break will also be used to allow staff to “prepare for the delivery of alternative education if that becomes necessary,” Bishop said. She indicated that an even longer closure was possible. On Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all public and private schools closed for six weeks in three counties.
Alaska’s first known case of coronavirus was reported late Thursday, shortly after Bishop’s announcement.
Bishop said the decision to extend the break was influenced by the fact that many families will be returning from vacations around world and that “more than one in six of our community members interact with those in close proximity to each other in the classroom environment.”
The district serves more than 45,000 students at more than 130 schools and programs.
Several other school districts across the nation have closed in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The University of Alaska also announced Thursday it was extending its spring break by a week, moving most of its classes online and canceling events amid coronavirus concerns. The state’s public university system serves more than 21,000 students.
Superintendent Bishop said even though children seem to be at a lower risk of contracting COVID-19, they regularly interact with people who are at a higher risk.
“No other entity in our city is better able to flatten the curve and potentially impede the spread of COVID-19 than ASD,” she said. “We can affect a change. And we are choosing to do so.”
In addition to closing schools, the Anchorage School District has suspended all international, domestic and in-state travel for students and employees through April.
More guidance regarding the school closure will be provided to district employees and families Friday morning.