Mat-Su school district tightens up precautions

Colony High School (Image from Mat-Su Borough School District)

The Mat-Su School District says it is reducing the number of classes secondary school student will take per week, as well as moving Fridays to online learning. 

Instead of a normal seven-class week, the Mat-Su School District says that it will reduce that number to six, and spread them out over a two-week period so that students will take three classes one week, and the remaining three the next week. Fridays will be at home, with the exception of some special needs students. 

“This reduces the number of classes that a teacher has on any given day,” said Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani in a press call on Friday evening. 

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He acknowledged that the move was a compromise between the teacher union’s push for a three-class quarter, and the district leadership’s desire for more classes to keep students in touch with all subject areas throughout the school year. 

“If you can only take three classes in a quarter you could easily have an order where you are not taking math. And long breaks and learning –  that doesn’t lead to academic success,” he said. 

The Mat-Su Education Association, which represents teachers in the area, had been pushing for a three-class quarter in order to reduce the amount of exposure that students and teachers have. Dianne Shibe, president of the union, said in an interview earlier in July that the change made sense. 

“If it’s a seven-period day, a teacher is exposed to around 100 and 850 to 180 kids on a given day. With a three, if you only have three classes you’re exposed to anywhere from probably 60 to 90 kids a day. So, just that mathematically, obviously, you’re going to be less likely to contract the virus,” she said. 

Shibe couldn’t be reached for comment on the most recent announcement.

The move comes after the school district ramped up other safety precautions over the last week. 

The district originally planned for a school year much like any other, but announced last week that it would require students to wear masks. 

On Friday’s call, Trani indicated that the district wouldn’t be as rigorous in pushing for schools to open, regardless of the rate of spread of COVID-19 in the borough. The district originally planned to keep schools open until a school reported a case, at which point they would close for several days for cleaning. Trani said that the surge in cases, as well as new guidance from the state, had changed how they might approach those decisions. 

“It could be community could be anywhere from a school and area within the borough or in the whole borough itself can be informed by the data that we get from the state case rate and spread rate across an area,” he said. 

Trani didn’t define transmission rates, as the Anchorage School District has done, and said that things could still change before school opens on August 19.