The Nome Public Schools’ Board of Education approved of the COVID Mitigation Update presentation on Aug. 10. Masking based on vaccination statistics stood out as the main adjustment to last year’s plan. A group of people with 80% or fewer members vaccinated must enforce masking, superintendent Jamie Burgess said.

“Nome Elementary school will implement universal masking, we will start with that, until the vaccine is available for children under the age of 12 and when the school reaches the 80% benchmark. Then we can consider the release of universal masking,” Burgess said.

Burgess noted that there will be exceptions for teachers of very young children. 

“Our K-2 teachers, during instruction when it’s crucial for children to see the teacher’s mouth and lips. That’s part of how phonics and reading instruction, it’s very important for children to be able to see how the teacher’s mouth is moving etc.,” Burgess said.

Teachers will wear face shields instead of masks when teaching those specific subjects to young children.

Another significant update concerns close contacts. The CDC updated its definition of a close contact, stating that people who came within 3-6 feet of an infected individual need not isolate if both individuals were wearing well-fitting masks. Consequently, fewer students will have to quarantine if someone in their classroom tests positive.

Regarding the Nome School District’s sports season, Burgess had good news. All sports will continue and teams travel to compete if the COVID-19 case number at the destination is low. Unvaccinated athletes will have to wear masks during practice and test for COVID-19 before and after travel. The Nome community will be allowed to attend the events as spectators. 

“If people are willing to wear masks and come out and sit apart we’d like to open up the gym and have more people in the gym this year… Our player families will always have priority if we are having to reduce the capacity, but after that that, yes we’d like to invite some of our Nome community members to come back and see sports this year,” Burgess said.

The school district is no longer running daily screening at schools, as that is not a CDC recommendation, Burgess said. The district intends to improve ventilation in school buildings to create a safer environment.

Burgess also announced that the Nome school district will be once again changing their state assessment system. The new vendor for state assessment tests will be NWEA, the creator of the MAP test. This change will allow the school district to omit the spring MAP Growth test.

Additionally, the Nome School Board approved both items of action on the agenda. The instillation of the Nome Belt Middle High School Activity Course and the final reading of Board policies passed unanimously.

The next regular Board of Education meeting is on September 14. With the new COVID-19 mitigation plan in effect, school starts Aug. 25. Nome Elementary School will implement universal masking. Nome Beltz Middle High School and Nome Charter School will determine whether or not they will implement universal masking once they know the vaccination status of their student bodies.

Image at Top: Members of Nome School Board review Covid-19 Mitigation Procedures powerpoint. Photo by Miriam Trujillo, KNOM.