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Former school teacher suing the Fairbanks school district, Board of Education

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 5:53 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A worker at North Pole Elementary is suing the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and the Board of Education in an effort to close schools until the case rates for COVID-19 in Fairbanks drop into the single digits and the district is no longer classified as operating within the CDC’s ‘red zone’.

Ron Arnold is a retired teacher working as a behavior aide at North Pole Elementary School. In response to the Fairbanks School Board’s decision to reopen in-person education, Arnold is suing the district and the board. He will be representing himself before Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle, with the goal of holding the school district to its stated goal of prioritizing safety in it’s students and staff.

“I filed a complaint saying they had basically lost their ability to do the fiduciary duty that they’re supposed to. It‘s called breach of fiduciary duty and that I showed that they have a mission statement that they read every time they start their school board meetings. And it really points out that safety is their number one thing and without it you don’t get education. If you read their mission statement, a safe environment is definitely part of it,” said Arnold.

The current 14-day average number of COVID-19 cases in the Fairbanks area is nearly three times higher than the threshold established by the CDC as safe for conducting in-person classes. The ‘red zone’ threshold is any number over 200 cases per 100,000 people per two weeks.

“They did not follow the Center for Disease Control, they did not listen to their own panel. They had two doctors come on and [although] the panel doesn’t have the ability to make a decision on opening and closing, they give definite suggestions. And they didn’t follow those. They didn’t follow the CDC, and they didn’t follow the National Institute of Health and so to me that equals a breach of fiduciary duty,” said Arnold.

According to school district spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch, within the first week of elementary schools reopening, two students at North Pole Elementary School tested positive for the virus, with 53 additional students potentially affected. Arnold fears the reopening of schools will cause subsequent spikes in the spread of COVID-19 throughout Fairbanks.

“The bottom line, it could be any school. My school happens to be North Pole Elementary and we’ve had issues already. Think about the middle schools opening up, and think about the high schools when they open up next week,” said Arnold.

According to Arnold he is currently waiting for the school district’s response to his lawsuit, and has asked for either an expedited hearing be carried out, or for schools to be kept closed pending the closure of his case.

On Tuesday the school district stated that they have yet to officially be served Arnold’s complaint, and provided courthouse documents showing that Arnold’s request for expedited consideration is being “held in abeyance” due to an improper submission of complaint.

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