From Your District Leadership

July 22, 2020

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Superintendent Gaborik

Hello School District Family,

Happy July! I hope you had a fun Independence Day holiday and have been able to enjoy our beautiful State this summer. School staff are slowly returning to buildings, with high school principals starting this week. We look forward to the rest of our staff returning in the next few weeks.

As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to affect Alaska and the Fairbanks community, the implications for schools are significant. It is imperative that we take seriously the role of the school district in the health and wellbeing of our community. Our 2,000 educators serve 13,500 students across the borough. If the school district can stay healthy through this pandemic, it will not only protect our students, staff and families, it will protect our entire community. Likewise, if our community members do their part to stay healthy, our students and staff will be healthy as well.

As of this writing, we still do not know which operational Zone we will be in on the first day school. The number of cases in the borough changes daily. Following a spike in local cases after the July 4 holiday, the number has dropped. We continue to plan for the Green and Yellow Zones in which families can choose between on-site or remote learning options. If cases rise, however, we are also preparing for the Red Zone where most learning is remote.

We are working with medical advisors to create metrics to determine the alert zones for Fairbanks schools. It is likely the matrix will be similar to the one available on the Department of Health and Social Services website, which is based on a population of 100,000.

Below are updates that will be helpful as families consider options for this fall.

Best Regards,

Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent


If you would like to be part of any of our ongoing efforts or if you have input about how we can improve this work, contact Dr. Karen Gaborik at


On July 20, the Board of Education adjusted the 2020-2021 school calendar. The new start date for students is Thursday, August 20. There are also additional professional development dates for staff in September and January. The last day of school remains the same on May 18, 2021.

What Will School Look Like for My Student?

Families will have three different learning options this Fall:

In-School with Blended Learning

Your child will attend their regular school in-person following District schedules and mandates. Students will be divided into smaller pods to lessen the number of students per classroom and to ensure we follow guidelines while keeping students in school. Students will have their classroom teacher, but their pod may also be instructed by other educational professionals within their buildings. Regardless of the alert zone we are in at any given time, your child’s teacher will remain the same.

  1. Students will attend according to the established schedule:

    Elementary = 5 days per week
    Middle and High School = 2 days per week

  2. Transportation will be available.

  3. Student meals will be provided.


Students will stay enrolled in their regular school and receive remote instruction from a district teacher. This is different than homeschooling your child. The eLearning teacher provides online instruction and assignments for your child. You will help guide your child’s learning but will not be responsible for the curriculum nor the teaching. Regardless of the Zone we are in, your child remains in eLearning with their teacher.

  1. Students have access to school clubs, activities, etc.
  2. Families will stay connected to their regular school, receiving newsletters and having access to student supports.
  3. Meals will be available for pickup at various locations.

If you're interested in eLearning for your student, please complete the eLearning Registration Form. As we get closer to the start of school, you'll be contacted to confirm your interest in eLearning and to establish your student’s learning plan.

Submitting the registration form now does not commit you to eLearning in August.

Homeschool through Fairbanks BEST

You will withdraw your child from your regular school and register them with the Fairbanks BEST School. The Fairbanks BEST specialist will help determine the curriculum you will use with your child, but the instruction and assessments will be determined and conducted by you. Regardless of what alert zone we are in, you will be your child’s teacher.

  1. Parents design and deliver curriculum and instruction.
  2. Students are enrolled in the Fairbanks BEST school, not their attendance area school.
  3. If you are interested in homeschool, contact Fairbanks BEST at 452-2000 x11209

Operational Guidelines

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New to the School District?

Do you have a student who is new to the district this year? Enroll them in the school district first! Then you can select which of the three Learning Options you prefer for your student at this time.

School Operation Zones

Once the Zone decision matrix for the district is finalized, it will be added to our website. Data will be presented for 7-day and 14-day rolling averages. Determinations regarding the district wide operating zone for schools will be made based on local case rates, hospital capacity for the entire Interior Region, testing capacity, student and staff absence rates, and other pertinent information.

Determinations regarding specific schools that may need to close due to exposure to a positive COVID-19 case will be made in coordination with Public Health and our medical partners. If an individual school or class needs to close for a period of time, administration will notify parents directly.

Health and Safety Protocols

For those families who plan to choose the in-person learning option while in the green and yellow zones, all students, staff and visitors will follow the guidelines below to ensure that our school environments are as healthy as possible

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Cleaning Protocols

Emergency Cleaning will be performed after a positive case has been identified in a School District Facility, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Areas of contact will be determined and closed for 24 hours prior to cleaning and disinfecting. Signs will be placed identifying areas that are closed, and advising that no entry is allowed.

Emergency Cleaning will include cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces, including washing of walls, and shampooing of carpets and soft surfaces. All furniture and items in the room/area will be cleaned and disinfected using CDC approved cleaning products for COVID-19.

Minimum PPE to be worn by cleaning staff will include face shields, masks, disposable gowns, and disposable gloves.

Signage will be removed after the room/area has been cleaned and disinfected.

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Student Transportation

The district will offer transportation services on the days students are in school. Masks will be required and seating will be assigned. Routes will be restructured to provide for social distancing and sanitization of high-touch areas.

Families who want their students to ride a school bus need to register online. Rider registration will provide for the effective route planning and contact tracing, should that become necessary. Registration is also the first step towards improving our bus notifications system.

If you plan to have your student(s) ride the bus, register here. The registration form can also be found on the district transportation webpage. If you need assistance registering, contact Transportation at 907-452-2000 option 4.

Sample School Schedules

Follow the links for SAMPLE school schedules for each level.

It is important to understand that each school will work within set parameters to create a schedule that meet students’ learning needs while maintaining expectations for social distancing. This will look very different across schools.

Social Emotional Supports

The new Student Support Services department has been working over the summer to ensure we are prepared to provide high quality social emotional and academic support as the new school year approaches. Social Services Managers, Counselors, Prevention Intervention Specialists, Behavior Intervention Aides and Safety Assistants are ready to fully engage with students, families, and staff regardless of whether we meet in the school setting or virtually. Our federal programs, including 21st CCLC After School Programs, Alaska Native Education, English Language Learners, Foster Care, McKinney-Vento, Migrant, and Title I continue to have strong programming in place to ensure that our students have increased opportunities for success. A support may look different in a virtual environment, but the purpose remains firm: to increase the academic achievement and social emotional well-being of students.

The district trusts the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL framework, the leading research and evaluator group for social and emotional learning, with over 20 years of knowledge base. Social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, relationship skills, decision making, relationship skills, and self management are critical for students and adults to manage their emotions at school, home and community. For a quick sense of the core focus of CASEL’s framework, take a look at CASEL’s SEL Core Competencies Wheel:

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This year, the district is excited to launch social and emotional learning support through a pilot of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) tool, which is aligned with CASEL framework. The DESSA tool helps identify students’ social and emotional strengths and areas of need for educators and caregivers. It provides research-based strategies to support growth and uses a strengths based perspective in supporting students’ social and emotional development. Educators will have full access to DESSA’s educator reflection and practice tools as well as the foundational practices necessary for trauma engaged classrooms and school environments. Caregivers will have opportunities to partner with educators in support of their student’s social emotional learning.
An Introduction to the DESSA System

Special Education

Special education services for students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) will continue whether students are engaged in a distance instructional environment or in school buildings. Special education IEP teams will work together to coordinate services/accommodations to meet the individual needs of the student while allowing consistency for caregivers. Distance instruction for special education may include live/interactive virtual instruction, recorded asynchronous lessons, interactive digital tools assigned by the teacher, paper packets of educational resources that address IEP goals/objectives, or phone calls to parents/students to check in on progress and discuss needed accommodations.

Parent learning opportunities are ongoing. The next offering will take place on August 11th and is titled: Being Informed = Practical Knowledge: Understanding ESERs/IEPs and 504s in the virtual world. This is a joint offering sponsored by the district and Stone Soup. You can register this for this class now.

Do you think your child (ages 3-5) may have problems with communication, learning, or skill development? The Child Find process for children between 3-5 years of age, and not yet Kindergarten eligible, will continue this year, but in a different location or format. If you have questions or need more information, please contact the Special Education office at 452-2000 ext. 11448 or follow this link:


The district will strive to continue activities to the fullest extent possible and promote the safety of students, coaches, staff, and supporting families. The district is following Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) event and practice protocols to guide fall activities. As updates become available, we will post them on our Sports and Activities webpage.

Preparing for School

What can families do to prepare for the start of school?

  • Make or purchase masks.

  • Expand your school supplies to include

    • Water bottles

    • Separate containers to store personal belongings

  • Teach and reinforce washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes.

  • Talk with your students and prepare them for a school year that will be different. Explain they will be in smaller groups and that lunchtime, recess, art, music and PE may be very different this year.

  • Make plans ahead of time to keep your students home if they are ill.

View more information about the district’s Smart Start 2020 Plan.

School Start Survey Results

The 2020-21 School Start Survey was designed for parents/guardians and district employees to share their perspectives on a variety of subjects pertaining to the 2020-21 school year. The questions were broken out by: elementary students (including K-8 students), middle/junior high, high school, device and internet access, staff perspectives, and communication. The survey was open from Wednesday, July 8 - Sunday, July 12. There were 100 questions in total, 5,864 responses, and the typical time spent to complete the survey was just over ten minutes.

View a summary of the survey results.

Future Updates

Monday, July 27

6:00 pm: Board of Education Meeting

Wednesday, July 29

10:00 am: Staff Zoom/Facebook Live Event

Noon: Parents & Public Zoom/Facebook Live Event

Tuesday, August 4

10:00 am: Staff Zoom/Facebook Live Event

Noon: Parents & Public Zoom/Facebook Live Event

Tuesday, August 11

Educator Welcome Back Event

Tuesday, August 18

6:00 pm: Board of Education Meeting