Exterior of Nome Elementary School, an off-white building with a smiling polar bear as its mascot.

Starting Monday, Nome Public Schools will be going into the “RED” phase for the rest of the semester. That means there will be no in-person classes for students in Nome until at least January.

Superintendent Jamie Burgess said the decision was made after meeting with the local Health Advisory Team, which followed the discovery of three positive cases in Nome on Tuesday.

“It looks like we’ve got a little bit of an outbreak going on right now. We may have to close sooner, but hopefully we have until Monday.”

– NPS Superintendent Jamie Burgess

Burgess explained that with the upcoming holidays and potential for travel and super-spreader events, the district decided to play it safe by going “RED” for the rest of the semester.

“Again, this is more of a precautionary measure, we’re just really trying to help with getting our cases back under control. We just don’t want to see them get out of control, and seeing cases actually show up in the schools. So, we feel that this is a good way to try to keep that down.”

The earliest Nome Public Schools are expected to re-open is January 11th. In accordance with the Alaska Smart Start Plan, all in-person extra-curricular activities, including sports, are canceled for that time as well.

While many students in the district still struggle to access reliable internet, Burgess says the school has been preparing for the possibility of distance learning since before the beginning of the school year. They’ve been able to get creative at the high school by preparing flash drives that students can take home and use on their school-provided laptops.

“Everything can be pre-loaded onto those flash drives. That will include our short videos from the teachers, actual assignments, everything can be placed on there; and those can be kind of swapped out and turned around as needed.”

Younger students will likely be learning through a combined method of online classes and paper packets. She says the school will likely have some very limited in-person learning for special-education students.

As the holiday season begins next week, Superintendent Burgess is asking locals to reconsider their travel plans. She has one request on behalf of Nome Public Schools.

“We’re really trying to encourage all of our community members to really take that quarantine very, very seriously.”

Nome Public Schools is planning to enter distance learning on Monday, November 23rd .

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the earliest NPS students could resume in-person class is January 21st. The earliest students are expected to resume in-person class is January 11th. The story is updated and we regret the error.

Image at top: Exterior of Nome Elementary School, August 22, 2018. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

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