With employees in quarantine after first regional COVID case, Lower Kuskokwim schools tighten protocols

LKSD school playgrounds remain closed as staff find ways to further limit the physical interactions with students.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The first positive case of COVID-19 has arrived in Bethel, and it’s already impacting the Lower Kuskokwim School District. Superintendent Dan Walker said that several staff members are in self-quarantine after being told they were in contact with Bethel’s first positive case.

The staff members were alerted by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation; Walker knows of four or five.

Read the latest coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska

“That I’m aware of, and I may not be aware of all of them,” Walker said. “We’re going above and beyond to take precautions.”

As far as Walker knows, Bethel’s COVID-19 patient is not a school district employee, and he said that the staff members who were contacted have gone into quarantine. The quarantined teachers are e-mailing their work packets or educational material to other staff, who print the documents and distribute them to students. Walker said that the entire district is trying to limit the transfer of objects that people touch, so teachers have also come up with new ways to collect school work.

“They’re allowing kids to take a picture of their completed work and text it back,” Walker said.

Walker said that school lunch workers and delivery staff members have been diligent in wearing masks and gloves and maintaining physical distance. 

He also said that LKSD has tightened travel restrictions for staff members. Previously, if they traveled out of the state they had to quarantine themselves upon returning. 

“We’re beefing that up,” Walker said, “to say that if you or anyone in your household has traveled from an area, now you have been exposed. The expectation is going to be that you will also self-quarantine. “

Walker also said that most teachers and staff were already working from home before tests confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 in Bethel.