Anchorage schools could reopen to students in mid-October

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Anchorage School District has established a target date of Oct. 19 to bring some students back into school buildings temporarily closed because of the coronavirus.

Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop said officials plan to make an announcement this week about when and how in-person schooling could begin, Alaska Public Media reported.

The district will start with elementary and special education students, Bishop said.

The ability to bring students back largely depends on the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the state’s largest city, which Bishop said adheres to the most recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“First and foremost they talk about how the community spread of the virus is paramount,” Bishop said. “And to work with your local health officials in getting kids back to school safely. So certainly our plan has considered that.”

The target number of daily new cases averaged over 14 days is 29 and below. Last week the city’s daily average was 41.

The district continues to review reopening criteria using information from the city and other local health officials.

Prior to a full reopening, students in third grade and below will be able to visit classrooms in small groups to be tutored by volunteer teachers in a program focused on building reading skills in the district’s youngest learners The program is scheduled to begin Sept. 28, Bishop said,

“Having 10 kids in a building, or 20 kids, is different than having 400 and ensuring that same safety and those same protocols,” Bishop said.

She added: “As we build muscle around all of those things that we know work to mitigate the risk of the spread of this virus, we’ll support our community and its overall health.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.