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Superintendent Gaborik answers community questions concerning Fairbanks School Board student phase-in plans

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 4:21 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Dr. Karen Gaborik, superintendent of schools for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District hosted an online question and answer video conference Thursday concerning the school board’s recent decision to allow children the option to return to school this January in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this stream she addressed questions and concerns from parents, guardians, and students.

Dr. Gaborik began the stream by summarizing the board’s planned basic COVID safety precautions for this reopening, such as requiring and supplying masks to students and staff, encouraging frequent hand washing, and social distancing measures.

“We will implement social distancing to the degree possible, and that will be based on how many students choose the in person option. If we have 10 students who choose to be in person in a 3rd grade classroom we’ll probably be able to implement social distancing really well. If there’s more, then teachers and schools will implement social distancing to the best of their ability,” said Gaborik.

One community member asked if these safety measures would be enhanced by staff and students being screened daily prior to entering the building.

“We are not going to be standing at the doors doing temperature checks, but we do have the daily screening checklist on our website — and we’ve been asking families to do those checks at home. Essentially if your child is sick please don’t send them to school. If they become sick at school or arrive at school sick, we’ll have to work with the school nurses and administration, isolate them, and get them home as soon as possible,” said Gaborik.

Another asked if teachers will teach from home if they are quarantined, or if students will be provided with substitute teachers?

“We still have to work that out. A substitute teacher is probably our best option. Not every classroom has the technology for a teacher to teach from home. And here’s the other thing I don’t think people understand - we don’t have enough support staff and it’s probably not necessarily an appropriate decision to make either way on any kind of long term basis. So we hope we can get subs; and then if we can’t get a sub for a teacher, each school will work with their staff and do the best they can to cover classes while teachers are remote,” said Gaborik.

The superintendent was also asked if schools open and the transmission rates become too high, will schools go strictly back to remote learning? Gaborik responded, “Based on the board action from Monday, the answer to that is ‘no’. Of course the school board could always meet and make a different decision; but right now we’re going to begin in person starting on January 19th and continue with that.”

The full Q&A session with Dr. Gaborik can be viewed here.

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