School solicits feedback on COVID-19 mitigation plan
July 22, 2021
Beginning in the fall, grades 7-12 would be exempt from mask-wearing under the Haines Borough School District’s proposed COVID-19 mitigation plan for the new academic year. The district is currently soliciting feedback on the proposal via a survey on the school website with an Aug. 1 response deadline.
Under the current proposal, mitigation protocol for kindergarten through sixth grade would remain similar to last year’s school-wide protocol with mandatory masking and eating in classroom pods. Seventh through twelfth graders would have optional masking and be able to eat lunch in the cafeteria.
Superintendent Roy Getchell said the mitigation proposal specifies that the masking requirement for younger students be reviewed once a vaccine becomes available for those age groups. At present, the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children 12 and older.
SEARHC didn’t respond to questions about the child vaccination rate in Haines. Getchell said he suspects the rate resembles that of the community as a whole, which is currently estimated at 67%.
Although the proposal marks a return to normal for seventh through twelfth graders, a number of mitigation measures will remain in place, including increased sanitization and air filtration, and an emphasis on staying home when sick, Getchell said. He said he expects many of these measures will remain in place even after pandemic concerns have diminished.
Other notable changes in the proposal include increased testing availability and reopening of the school to outside visitors for events like open gym.
“We want to make it much more convenient for people to get testing,” Getchell said. With federal grant funding, the school is going to hire a nurse and make free, rapid tests available.
Getchell said the proposal, released July 1, is just a starting point for discussions.
“Hopefully we will be able to pivot in one direction or another depending on feedback and new guidance,” Getchell said. “We want to hear what the feedback from the public is. We’re not going to make big decisions without gathering data.”
Parent, teacher and teachers' union president Kristin White said she’s pleased the school is taking a proactive approach.
“I remain grateful we are able to plan for in person instruction,” White said. “I hope that the accompanying survey received a high level of response. Feedback from stakeholders will inform school leaders about what the school community thinks about the proposal and may lead to adjustments.”
Once the response deadline closes, the district will begin sorting data in preparation for proposal review at the Aug. 3 school board meeting.