WASILLA — Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani presented a wide array of information to the Wasilla City Council on Monday.
Trani presented on the effect of COVID-19 in schools and used a number of different graphs to illustrate the district’s case numbers and how the district data often leads that of the Mat-Su Borough. Trani also presented information on test scores, Advanced Placement course offerings and Career and Technical education within the district.
“This year we have about 85 % of the kids in in person learning and last year was more like 15 % less than that, so we had 30 % in correspondence, so we have lots more kids in the buildings which is our main goal this year is to keep the buildings open and try to make it as normal as possible,” said Trani. “We just have to keep giving each other grace and trying to listen to each other and look at this COVID problem, I’ve been using this analogy of let’s look at it side by side rather than toe by toe or eye to eye. There’s mask debates and we could go on and on and there’s vaccine debates and we could go on and on, but the one thing that everybody agrees on is that it’s best to have kids in school so that’s the shared goal that we have is to try to keep as many kids as possible in school.”
As reported at previous school board meetings, the current MSBSD enrollment of 18,802.75 is about 300 students less than predicted, but stil 4,000 students more attending in-person classes than last year. Trani also used visual representations of the number of absent days that have been taken by students in stark contrast to last school year with a dramatic increase.
“Although we have gotten better since about day 12, we’re still at an alarmingly high absentee rate. About 26 % of the district is a day,” said Trani. “When you have 20 – 30 % of your kids out across the district, it makes it hard to make educational gains. We’ve had schools with 50 % absenteeism in a day, well from a teacher standpoint if half the kids are gone when they come back now you have to catch them up and meanwhile a new batch is out so it’s really been a real, real challenge this year.”
Trani presented data on COVID-19 infection rates among students and teachers that had been compiled up to October 4. While only 1,479 cases were tracked among students and teachers during last school year, 1,848 had been reported as of Wednesday with 19 schools at a medium risk level and Iditarod Elementary as the only school closed to in-person instruction. Trani presented a table that illustrated if the rate of infection continued, every student within the district would test positive for COVID-19 by the end of the year, though he believed that outcome to be highly unlikely.
“See how high that red line gets in the first part of this, like it’s way more cases this year than last year, like our two highest peaks last year were 99 cases in a day. Our highest this year was over 300. We’ve been over 200 cases a day for the last five weeks. You can see that it’s on a steady downward slope,” said Trani.
Trani also presented data showing the effectiveness of career and technical education concentrators on graduation rates, with recent years of over 96 % graduation rate for students who had taken two or more CTE courses. However, last year’s COVID-19 mitigation policies limited the amount of CTE courses available throughout the district. This school year, MSBSD is on track to offer more CTE courses and more AP courses to students than ever before.
“If we keep kids in the courses that they are in right now we’ll be about 6800 courses in a year which is the most we’ve ever had so we’re excited about that,” said Trani. “The point of being in a career and technical education course is we’re trying to get you industry certifications.”
Last year 965 students took AP exams while 2,054 are on track to take AP exams this year.