Fairbanks private schools plan 2020-2021 academic year

Spruce Tree Montessori School and Catholic Schools of Fairbanks will require face coverings to be worn by students and staff. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)
Spruce Tree Montessori School and Catholic Schools of Fairbanks will require face coverings to be worn by students and staff. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)(Alex Bengel/KTVF)
Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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Private schools in Fairbanks are in the process of planning for the 2020-2021 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spruce Tree Montessori School (STM) in Fairbanks in currently providing its summer session. On March 13th, the school switched to remote learning to comply with state mandates closing public and private schools.

According to Sabrina Binkley, Head of School and Founder of Spruce Tree Montessori School in Fairbanks, enrollment has been reduced by 20 percent, allowing for 3 classes with about 20 students each.

Binkley said the school’s classroom space allows for 3-6 feet of distance between each student, even as numbers are expected to rise to about 25 students per class in the fall.

Face coverings are being required. “All students are wearing face masks, and all staff are wearing facemasks,” she said, adding that during outdoor P.E., recess, lunch and snack time, the masks can be lowered to the student’s neck.

At STM, Students have their temperatures checked in the morning. If a child is reported by their parent to not be feeling well, a log is kept that includes symptoms. “We’re asking parents, if their child has two or more COVID-related symptoms, as recommended by the CDC, that they keep their child home,” Binkley said.

If a child has been exposed to a COVID positive person, they are required to stay home. According to Binkley, the community will be informed if a teacher tests positive for COVID-19, and their class may, at the school’s discretion, be closed for 3 days.

Binkley said STM intends to open on August 4th for the 2020 school year with these mitigation strategies still in place.

Catholic Schools of Fairbanks (CSF) also switched to remote learning in the spring, a process which was made easier by already having an electronic device assigned to each student.

Patrick Riggs, Principal of Monroe Catholic High School, explained how that policy already being in place helped with the transition to remote learning in the spring. “The high school students were already taking them home anyway, and so the transition to online was relatively easy for us to adapt to. Everything was already there,” he said.

According to Amanda Angaiak, Director of Schools for CSF, the size of their space allows for social distancing without structural changes to the facility. “We are blessed with a small group of students, Pre-K through 12, in terms of our enrollment,” she said.

Angaiak said facemasks will be required of students and staff. Kristy Parrish, Principal of Immaculate Conception School within CSF, said that with younger students, the emphasis all be on making everyone safe and less on punitive measures.

“Education in general is not for the faint of heart. Education during a pandemic is definitely not for the faint of heart. And so I think we work really hard on trying to make sure that we acknowledge that we’re in this together,” Parrish said.

Parent and staff feedback on the school’s reopening model has been sought through surveys and received via email. Angaiak said the response has varied from willingness to hesitation to send students back to school full-time. “It is such a fluid time right now,” she said. As the COVID-19 numbers in Fairbanks change, more feedback will be solicited by CSF.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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