Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce hosts “State of Our Schools Address” virtually

Published: Nov. 6, 2020 at 5:20 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Tuesday, November 3rd, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce held its weekly virtual luncheon, where the topic was the annual “State of Our Schools Address.”

At the meeting, guest speaker Karen Gaborik, Superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, presented on various topics affecting schools in the borough.

These included the school’s budget and demographics, as well as COVID-19 and its effect on learning. Gaborik explained that of the three learning options the district presented over the summer, 9,355 students are signed up for blended in-person/remote learning, 1,173 for eLearning, and 902 are utilizing BEST Homeschool for their learning.

Speaking about blended learning, Gaborik said, “We haven’t had a comprehensive in-person option yet this year, so that moving back and forth hasn’t occurred like we thought it might when we were working on our plans this summer.”

According to Gaborik’s report, the district, as a result of COVID-19-related adjustments to schooling, anticipates a loss of $7-8 million in revenue this fiscal year, which is expected to require a 15% reduction in staff next year.

Gaborik encouraged district staff to stay home if they’re feeling sick. “We do have very dedicated staff who are coming to work ill. You know, it feels like a cold. Of course, we’re in the middle of flu season,” she said, adding, “And so, people are thinking, ‘Well, you know, it’s not COVID,’ and then they start to feel worse and worse, and then they go get tested and it is COVID. Then in the meantime they’ve been around other staff, potentially, and so then those close contacts all have to go home and be quarantined for fourteen days.”

Gaborik indicated that when staff is lost because of quarantining and isolation, schools have had to be closed, including Ladd Elementary School and Ben Eielson Jr/Sr High School.

She also reviewed the school district’s operational risk zone and cleaning guidelines.

The superintendent also reported that the district has been able to acquire electronic devices for student use, finally reaching her goal of having one for each student. “A silver lining of COVID is that it has moved us there, so we have distributed over 15 thousand devices to students and families. These include Macs, PCs, Chromebooks and iPads.”

The full video of the meeting can be found here.

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