KDLG Header Banner Image
Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Here's how Bristol Bay school districts are planning to start the year safely

Ida Nelson



The start of school is around the corner. Here’s a rundown of what families around the region can expect, and resources where they can learn more


Schools are opening this month and the four school districts in Bristol Bay have developed safety plans for the upcoming school year.

A full list of school plans is posted on the AK Smart Start page

Dillingham City School District


School starts on September 14. Inservice for teachers began August 18. 


The school day is shortened this year. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. and classes start at 8:30 a.m. The elementary school releases at 1:00 p.m. and the middle/high school gets out at 1:10 p.m. Most students and staff will be required to wear a mask. Those with medical exceptions will wear other coverings.


The school will allow students to attend classes in person based on the community’s risk level. BBAHC will determine when the district moves between each risk category.


The first is a low risk level, which the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation defines as no community spread. The school district would operate at 100% capacity, and will allow students to attend class in person. Busses would operate at full capacity.


The second is a medium risk level. That means there is community spread in Dillingham. The school will operate at 50% capacity, with half of the students attending on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half attending on Thursday and Friday. Busses would also operate at 50% capacity.


In a high-risk scenario, the school would operate at 5% capacity, and instruction would be delivered via distance learning online.


All students in the district will receive a technology device and enough internet capacity to support the distance education program. According to Superintendent Jason Johnson, the school aims to have that in place for everyone prior to October 1st so that the district can transition smoothly to a high-risk learning track if necessary.


The school is offering three tracks for families to choose from for the upcoming school year. The first option is for students to attend school in person with the appropriate safety measures in place.


The second option is a virtual platform; kindergarten through sixth grade students can take classes online through Acellus Academy. Seventh grade through 12th grade students can take classes online through Brigham Young University. Those students and families will have contact with a district representative, the provision of home internet capacity and a computer or iPad. The school will enroll the students in courses. The district has built a cohort of teachers to support students after school hours for help with individual classes.


The third option is for families to homeschool their students. 


All students will receive grades. The virtual courses are graded through the provider, and homeschool students are graded through the homeschool agency. 


Find out more on the Dillingham school’s COVID-19 information page 


Southwest Region School District

The Southwest Region School District opens schools September 14.

SWRSD is working with the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation’s Incident Command. Their joint health advisory team is in charge of determining the community risk levels in the district. The district has plans for low, medium, and high-risk scenarios in its communities.

Low risk is defined as no community spread. Medium risk means there is evidence of community spread with multiple people testing positive for COVID-19 in at least two places of residence in a community. High risk is defined as widespread infection in a community, with a growing number of positive cases. Cases related to travel do not indicate a rise in risk levels.

Under all three scenarios, the district is working to increase communication with communities. It will provide students with laptops or iPads.

In a low-risk scenario, all schools will limit visitors. Masks are recommended for students in pre-kindergarten through third grade, and required for students fourth through 12th grade. Personal Protective Equipment will also be provided, and all buildings will have increased sanitation measures. Elementary students are also expected to have in-person learning for full school days. Middle and high school students will have classes in person for a half day, and distance learning for the other half.

Travel will be allowed to other low-risk communities with the district. Students must have negative COVID-19 tests prior to competing in any home or travel games.

A community in the medium-risk category would have staff teach, practice, and reinforce good hygiene measures in line with CDC recommendations. They would also continue to provide PPE and increase building cleaning measures. All students and staff would be required to wear masks. Class sizes would likely be reduced to allow for social distancing.

Medium risk communities would no longer be eligible for district-sponsored travel, with exceptions for necessary maintenance and other critical staff. Schools would not be allowed to host visiting teams.

If a community becomes high risk, buildings will be closed to everyone except designated cleaning staff, and all classes will be moved to distance learning.

More information on the Southwest Region Schools COVID-19 page

Bristol Bay Borough School District

The Bristol Bay Borough School District is set to start school on September 14. The district is working with the Camai Community Health Center to develop safety procedures for students and staff. The clinic has defined what low, medium and high risk scenarios look like in the area, and BBBSD has developed learning plans for each scenario. 

Low risk is defined as no community spread. Medium risk means there is community spread in the district, with multiple COVID-19 positive individuals from at least two places of residence in one or more of the borough’s communities. High risk is defined as widespread infection of the coronavirus throughout borough communities with exponential growth of positive cases. Cases related to travel do not indicate a rise in risk level.

Staff and studnets are required to wear masks at all times.Families are also required to keep students with symptoms at home. Staff will monitor the symptoms of students as well as other staff members, and will be sent home if necessary. Under both low- and medium-risk scenarios, families may opt for homebound instruction.

In a low-risk scenario, all students could physically attend school for the full school day, but with staggered movement between classrooms, meal services, and bus seating. In this instance, recess and gym classes would be primarily outside with limited indoor activities. 

A medium risk scenario means only 50% of students at a time would be physically in school. They would have staggered schedules and students would stay in one classroom. Physical activity would be outside only, they'll eat meals in classrooms, or meals will be delivered to homes, and there would be increased cleaning.

Under a high-risk scenario the school would transition to homebound education for all students. It would provide students with laptops, iPads and no-cost network access to support their education. 

The Camai clinic has hired a pediatric nurse practitioner, Whitney Holmes, to assist in making medical decisions during the school year. Holmes will determine if students with symptoms must go home, or if the symptoms are from allergies or a cold. Holmes will also work with parents and guardians on how they can protect themselves at home. She began work in the school the first week of September.

The Camai clinic has also announced that Ashley Bales is returning to work as a Social Emotional Learning Coach. Bales will work with teachers and staff to incorporate SEL into curriculum and classes.

Camai also reminds everyone to stay home and call the health center if they are experiencing symptoms or suspect they may have been infected with the coronavirus. The clinic number is (907) 246-6155.

More information is available on the Bristol Bay Borough School District website

Lake and Peninsula School District

Students in the Lake and Peninsula School District started school on September 2.

LPSD's COVID-19 support page includes a Smart Start Plan as well as a list of 100 actions to maximize safety for students and staff. Steps include increasing communication and partnerships with other school districts, village councils, and medical organizations and professionals.

LPSD also breaks down what the school year could look like under low-, medium- and high-risk scenarios. In the low-risk category, staff are required to wear face coverings, and students are encouraged to do so. (The district will provide face coverings for students.) There will also be daily health screenings for students and staff, increased sanitation and janitorial hours, and social distancing protocols. In a medium-risk scenario, the district would move to a combined in-person and remote learning model, and schools would further limit visits. It would also move to a four-day week, setting aside Mondays for planning.

If a community is deemed high risk, its school would move to online learning. The district also has plans to increase communication with parents and communities as well as train staff to teach remotely and prepare for inservices moved to online virtual teacher training.

The district's policies for students include health and safety protocols, parent and family engagement, community services, meals, and transportation. It will also support staff in accommodating learning gaps, education delivery methods, scheduling, and training for the new safety protocols and virtual professional development. 

Staff are granted up to two weeks of paid sick leave under various conditions under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and can qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave under certain conditions.

More information is available on the Lake and Pen School website

Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.