- Anchorage School District
- From the desk of the Superintendent
Messages from the Superintendent
July 31: Message from the Superintendent
Dear Students, Families, Employees, and Community Members,
The countdown is on for the start of the 2021-2022 school year! Over the coming days, principals, teachers, and staff will begin the exciting migration back to buildings, where we are planning a strong start for our students to the new school year. You can anticipate a twice-monthly letter as you had last year, sharing the latest learning updates. These updates will arrive in your inbox on or near the first and fifteenth of each month.
With just weeks to go until the first bell, I have received questions from many parents and community members about the upcoming school year, as the COVID risk levels in our community shift. We have learned much about COVID while on this rollercoaster ride of a pandemic; when we know better, we do better. What we know about in-person learning is that with proper mitigation, schools have not been a vector of spread. The District successfully ran its largest summer learning program in years, with more than 9,000 students participating in some form of in-person learning between June and August. During our summer school programs, we had less than 10 confirmed COVID cases and no known spread.
With the confidence we have built in mitigating COVID, we approach the new school year with optimism, while being cognizant of the new Delta variant that is rapidly spreading across the globe and has reached our community. Our goal is to make ASD buildings the safest buildings in Anchorage for our students to flourish and learn in a full-length school day. With this goal and the consideration of community feedback, public health recommendations, and the current community risk level, I would like to share with you the 2021-2022 Return to School Operational Guidelines, Start Strong.
Our mitigation plan this year focuses on how to continue accelerated learning in person, while allowing for full participation in activities, clubs, and social learning opportunities. We know school activities are important to student development. The updated mitigation plan focuses primarily on:
1. Universal masking will be required for all individuals while inside any ASD school or building. Some exceptions will apply. Masking while outside is optional.
2. Keep ASD Symptom Free. We must all do our part to minimize viral spread. Please stay home and get tested if you are experiencing ANY symptoms.
3. Cleaning and Disinfecting. Regular cleaning of classrooms, buses, and offices will continue. Hand sanitizer will be readily available and frequent handwashing will be encouraged. Enhancements and upgrades have been made to building HVAC systems to allow for optimal ventilation and air exchange.
4. Keeping students and staff in the learning environment. The District will continue to make COVID-19 vaccine clinics available to eligible students (with parental consent), staff, and community members through a contracted provider. Additionally, following new guidance from the CDC, asymptomatic, properly masked students and fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to quarantine if deemed a close contact.
These past few weeks I have gathered information, heard from parents and staff, and spoken with experts. The science tells us the new variant is highly contagious, is circulating around the globe, and is at a high rate in our community. Given the rapid rise of COVID cases in Anchorage and the new public health recommendations provided last week by the CDC, I will recommend this mitigation plan to the Anchorage School Board. The Board will review and discuss it during its August 3 meeting.
As we look ahead, I would like to thank you for your patience and perseverance. I foresee a strong school start with a spectrum of opportunities for our students. I am confident with proper mitigation and a laser focus on learning we will have an excellent school year. Please know ASD continues to offer options for your family in school, at home, or a combination of both. To find the latest and greatest on flexible solutions within ASD, please visit the District website.
Dr. Deena Bishop
May 26: Message from the Superintendent
Dear ASD Families,
The purpose for this communication is to provide masking guidance for ASD’s summer learning programs hosted in June. Please know that we look forward to continuing education this summer for our students in a safe manner that is responsive to local conditions.
Several factors influence this guidance. First, the District acknowledges the Mayor’s recent action to lift restrictions in place under emergency ordinances, and that case rates in the Municipality have declined significantly with the successful introduction of several vaccines and the ongoing campaign to vaccinate community members ages 12 and older.
It is also significant that the summer school environment is markedly different in that student populations are generally smaller, allowing students to spread out, and that warmer temperatures enable teachers to increase outdoor instruction and activities.
With these factors in mind, the following masking guidance applies to programs beginning in June. District Administration will review and potentially adjust this guidance for programs hosted in July if warranted.
1. Mask wearing for all students is optional (informed by parental preference).
2. Mask wearing for staff is optional; the District strongly advises non-vaccinated staff to wear masks (self-determined).
3. Mask wearing for vaccinated parents, volunteers, and visitors is optional; non-vaccinated individuals are strongly advised to wear masks.
4. Up to 3’ distancing will be encouraged while inside school buildings.
The District is dedicated to its mission to educate students for success in life. As we continue to work through this pandemic together, our commitment to staff and families is to transition education back to normalcy in a manner that fosters student growth and development, is responsive to constantly changing conditions, and remains responsible to the well-being of our students and staff.
As we look toward the Memorial Day weekend, I also want to thank and give honor to our military personnel and families and the ultimate sacrifice many have given to our country. I am forever grateful for your service.
Thank you, as always, for your consideration and continued support.
Deena M. Bishop, Ed.D.
May 15: Message from the Superintendent
As the school year winds down, we are in the season of end-of-year ceremonies and traditions designed to celebrate student accomplishments and send them on to the next phase of their education, whether that is first grade, middle school, college, or career. These celebrations, which have largely been in person this year, are a very fitting and deserving end to a challenging year. Seeing our students receive end-of-year awards and diplomas with parents and family members in attendance is a powerful reminder that achieving ASD’s core mission is a lengthy journey that requires the commitment of the entire community. This year, that commitment has been more important than ever.
In light of evolving CDC guidance about the extremely low COVID transmission rates during outdoor activities, ASD has rescinded the requirement for volunteers to be fully vaccinated to participate in outdoor events. Parent volunteers are a valuable and essential resource for a cohesive school community, and this adjustment will allow for wider participation in important year-end school events without sacrificing safety. The District is thankful for continued community support and sincerely appreciates public input as we work together to get back to regular routines.
ASD is already looking to next fall with the hopes that school activity will more closely resemble what things were like before the pandemic, while keeping the good things we learned about our capacity to be nimble. We are aiming for a full school day, five days a week! Specials such as P.E. and music will be reincorporated, and lunch may be resumed in larger spaces. We anticipate continuing some mitigation measures, as safety of students and staff will remain a District priority. To that point, we will continue to monitor CDC guidelines and requirements of our city as we plan. We have learned a lot this year about how to mitigate the spread of COVID in our schools and I am confident that we can open our schools, programs, and activities more fully in the fall.
To assist with our planning for the next year, the District distributed a short survey today to get your feedback on a couple of items. If you have not yet received or completed it, please take two minutes of your time to provide your input. The survey can be found here.
As you may already be aware, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was recently approved for emergency use on children ages 12 and older. ASD is in coordination with a third-party healthcare provider which plans to host clinics at ASD sites throughout the summer. Families who choose to pursue the vaccine for their students can schedule their vaccine appointments through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Please know that vaccination remains a choice in ASD.
With one short week left in the school year, summer is squarely in everyone’s sights. Since the beginning of this year, I have promised our families and employees direct communication to ease the uncertainty that the pandemic caused in our lives, especially in relation to our schools and learning. Please know that additional information about the great things our school communities can expect next school year will be communicated throughout the summer via our regular communication methods of newsletters, alerts, social media, and the website. This will be my last general, direct-to-your-inbox update this school year. In closing, please take every opportunity to get outside and take advantage of all that our beautiful and diverse state has to offer. And, congratulate your students of all ages on their accomplishments this year. Have a wonderful Alaskan summer!