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Denali Borough Schools Close Again After Two in Healy's Schoolhouse Test COVID-positive

KUAC file photo

Denali Borough School District officials decided Tuesday to close all three of its schools to in-class instruction through the holidays. The district superintendent says they made the decision to return to at-home online instruction after learning that two people who tested positive for COVID-19 had recently been inside Tri-Valley School in Healy.

Superintendent Dan Polta says district officials decided Sunday to keep Tri-Valley School students in grades 8 through 12 at home for distance-learning after the district found out that a person who’s tested positive for COVID was in the building on Saturday.

“And we said ‘OK, well, it’s the weekend, we’ve got time to do cleaning and sanitizing – again, even though we’d cleaned it after school already,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Polta said district officials intended to keep the smaller schools in Anderson and Cantwell open for in-class instruction. Until Monday afternoon, when they learned that another person who later tested positive for COVID had been in the Tri-Valley school. He says they then decided, after learning additional information and out of an abundance of caution, to limit the risk of spreading the virus at the smaller schools.

“We have not had a positive case in the buildings at Anderson and Cantwell,” he said, “but when we look at the different information that all came between Sunday and Monday afternoon, we then transitioned Anderson and Cantwell.”

Polta said Tuesday that district officials had re-opened the schools earlier this month, after they’d been closed for three to four weeks last month, and students were getting online instruction at home. He says that closure was due to growing numbers of people locally and statewide being exposed to the coronavirus, as well as guidance on precautions from Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Polta says the district’s students will continue distance learning at home through the holidays and into the first few days of the spring semester – until at least Jan. 11.

Editor's note: This story has been revised to clarify that the district's closure of schools in November was  based on the local and statewide rate of people being exposed to the coronavirus and guidance on precautions from the governor's office.