Nome school year begins in condition Red
Nome-Beltz High School and the Anvil City Science Academy opened Tuesday, Aug. 25 but no students appeared. The schools are in Smart Start Condition Red, which means full distance learning is in effect. A case of COVID-19 in a member of one of the sports teams counts as an active case in the school, moving the status from low risk green to high risk red. Nome Elementary School, which doesn’t open until next week, remains in condition green.
Condition red goes into effect when there are many active cases of community spread COVID-19 or when there is an active case of the novel coronavirus in the school. To go to condition green, the lowest risk level, there must be 14 days with no community-spread cases. District officials discuss the risk status with medical personnel from Norton Sound Health Corporation and Public Health Nursing. According to District Superintendent Jamie Burgess they talk at least once a week.
How soon can the condition red turn into a less serious threat level? “Potentially next week,” said Burgess. “It’s so very difficult to forecast or even put the word out as another case could potentially cause us to stay in red or move to yellow.”
The uncertainty of the situation appears to be increasing interest in the district’s home-based learning programs. Extension Correspondence School, ECS for short, is designed for families who prefer to home school their children. “We’ve had ECS for a number of years, specifically for families who chose home school as an educational style for their family,” said Rachel Ventress, who runs the program. “Many of the families we serve have been people who home school year after year.” Ventress reports she normally starts the school year with 10 to 14 students and that number will double during the course of the school year. “Right now on my official roster I have 43 students and on my unofficial roster, which is people who have completed the registration, I have 56.”
Another alternative to in-person school or Extensions homeschool program is a virtual classroom program called “@Home in Nome”. This is for families who don’t want to send their kids to the brick and mortar school site but also don’t want to homeschool. With the status of the schools constantly an unknown, it is attracting more and more students. Curriculum is available for grades K through 12 and a student is assigned a teacher who checks in with them once a week. It is recommended for students who are self-motivated. Those who procrastinate or lack motivation are not a good fit, according to the district.