Cluster of COVID-19 cases closes three schools in Mat-Su School District

An empty hallway with a long corkboard on the wall that's empty as well
A hallway that would normally be full of elementary school students is empty on the first day of school, August 20, 2020, as students begin the school year entirely online. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Five newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Mat-Su Borough School District pushed three schools into online-only learning mode on Tuesday.

An 11th grader and a 12th grader at Colony High School, a 6th grader and a 8th grader at Colony Middle School, and a 4th grader at Pioneer Peak Elementary School have tested positive for the virus.

All of the cases are related, according to each of the schools’ Facebook pages.

As a result, both Colony middle and high schools have moved to distance learning until next Tuesday. The Pioneer Peak Elementary building is also closed, and there will be an update on the length of the closure on Wednesday evening, the district said. Students will be learning online in the meantime. 

Each of the schools will be cleaned and public health officials will trace the students’ contacts. Families will be notified by the Mat-Su Public Health Department if their child is considered a close contact.

SEE ALSOAlaska university athletes quarantined for virus after party

This crop of cases follows a positive case in a 3rd grader at Machentaz Elementary School in Wasilla last week. 

Machentaz Elementary has since reopened to in-person learning. But, according to district spokesperson Jillian Morrissey, an investigation of that case identified 36 people, including staff and students, as close contacts who are currently quarantined until next week. 

Read the latest coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in Alaska

The investigation also uncovered another positive case, Morrissey said. The district did not confirm whether the additional case was a student or staff member. 

The Mat-Su Borough School District is the largest district in the state to resume in-person learning this fall. The status of school closures can be found on the district’s website.