COVID-19 Information for Alaska’s Schools

Updated August 1, 2022

The Alaska Department of Health (DOH) recognizes the importance of in-person learning and school activities as Alaskans continue to cope with COVID-19 infections that are still affecting our communities.

The department’s Office of School Health and Safety (OSHS) assists Alaska’s learning communities by providing evidence-based health guidance incorporating recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). DOH works closely with the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) to consult with school communities on COVID-19 prevention, mitigation, and response.

On this page:

CDC Guidance

CDC’s guidance, Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning, provides a layered approach dependent on local levels of community transmission. The CDC recommends schools work with local public health officials, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations including those related to privacy, to determine prevention strategies that may be needed in their area.
When making decisions on which COVID-19 prevention strategies to use, school officials should consider COVID-19 community levels and case rates, as well local vaccine coverage, testing rates, local hospitalizations and health care capacity.

The CDC recommends the following set of strategies for everyday operations at all levels of local COVID-19 transmission.

  • Staying up to date on vaccinations
    Routine vaccinations prevent illness from many different infections. For COVID-19, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is the leading public health strategy to prevent severe disease.
  • Staying home when sick
    People with symptoms of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, influenza and gastrointestinal infections, should stay home and get tested for COVID-19.
  • Ventilation
    Good ventilation can improve air quality to reduce the risk of germs spreading through the air. Various federal and state programs provide funding to support improvements to ventilation.
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    Washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes can prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Cleaning and disinfection
    Schools should clean surfaces at least once a day to reduce the risk of germs spreading by touching surfaces.

If case rates are high in your community, additional strategies including masking, testing and cohorting (keeping students in smaller groups) can be considered. These strategies and more are outlined in the CDC guidance.

American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Guidance for Safe Schools and Promotion of In-Person Learning states that "schools and school-supported programs are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being."

AAP supports measures to maintain in-person learning and notes that remote learning during the pandemic made educational inequities worse and deepened the growing mental health crisis among children and adolescents. 
The AAP recommends schools follow guidance outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to decrease transmission of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Community Levels and Case Rates

School administrators in Alaska can look at two tools to help assess COVID-19 risk in their community.
The CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels  help individuals, organizations, and communities understand the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in their community and to make recommendations for prevention measures
The State of Alaska’s Community Case Rates tool complements the CDC's Community Levels. Community Case Rates are calculated for each borough/census area and reflect new COVID-19 cases reported in the past 7 days per 100,000 residents.

Both tools can be used in tandem to make informed decisions for communities and can be accessed on the Alaska Division of Public Health’s  COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.  

COVID-19 Vaccination

The CDC continues to recommend vaccination as the leading public health strategy to help protect against severe COVID illness. Staying up to date on all recommended childhood vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccinations, can help students remain safely in the classroom and continue to participate in extracurricular activities and sports.

COVID-19 vaccination is available for everyone age 6 months and older. To view vaccination rates for youth by borough and census area in Alaska, visit the DOH  COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard.

COVID-19 immunization is recommended, but not required, for school attendance in Alaska. To learn which immunizations are required before admission to school, please visit our webpage on School and Child Care Immunizations.

Alaskans can learn more at covidvax.alaska.gov and find a vaccine provider at vaccines.gov or by calling the Alaska COVID-19 helpline at 907-646-3322.

Additional resources:

COVID-19 School Testing Information

All school districts have access to funding from the Department of Education and Early Development with technical assistance available from DOH to assist with COVID-19 testing. For more information on school testing contact HealthySchools@alaska.gov. To learn more about this program, please visit the COVID-19 Testing Guidance for Alaska School Districts.

At-Home Tests

At-home testing can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please encourage families to order free at-home tests from the federal government at covidtests.gov or by calling 1-800-232-0233 if they have not already done so. For more information, please visit the Division of Public Health’s At-Home COVID-19 Testing Information.

Ventilation

Ventilation is one component of maintaining healthy environments, and it is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy. Schools can optimize ventilation and improve indoor air quality to reduce the risk of germs and contaminants spreading through the air.

Funds provided through the U.S. Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Programs, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Programs and the Department of Health and Humans Services’ Head Start and Child Care American Rescue Plan funds can support improvements to ventilation in schools.

Use the CDC’s Interactive School Ventilation Tool to learn how your school can optimize ventilation to reduce virus particles in classrooms. DOH does not provide recommendations for, or against, any manufacturer or product.

Join the School Health ECHOs

The School Health ECHO is a virtual learning network intended for professionals in the education setting (administrators, school board members, educators, school nurses and staff) to interface with a team of medical and education experts in Alaska. This ECHO meets biweekly on Mondays from 3-4 p.m. To join, register for the School Health ECHO.

Additional Resources

Contact Us

For the Office of School Health and Safety, within the Division of Public Health, contact HealthySchools@alaska.gov  or 907-269-3433.