The health and safety of our students and instructors are of utmost importance to the Alaska Avalanche School. We continue to monitor state and local health guidelines and are planning to adapt to meet evolving safety standards. AAS will operate using known best practices that support physical distancing, strong hygiene, uncontaminated surfaces, reduced physical points of contact between all persons, and personal protective equipment (PPE) when physical distancing is not an option. People who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should carefully consider, in conjunction with their health care provider, whether to attend an avalanche course at this time.

AAS will make efforts, through a variety of approaches, to decrease the probability of transmission of COVID-19 during our courses. Adaptations such as classroom size, class size, online/remote learning, and PPE will be used in various combinations to adjust to current level of community transmission or to adhere to state and local health regulations. Our school retains the right to move or cancel courses as it adapts to COVID-19.

We have adapted our operating procedures to include updated admissions documents, a modified cancellation policy, and a mandatory declaration of health form that follows best practices for safe COVID-19 management.


Our Commitment to Health and Safety

We are planning for the upcoming avalanche education season with both traditional and blended delivery of our coursework, adapting as necessary to meet current health regulations.

We will require all students who have been out of the country or state to follow state travel mandates which may include negative testing at arrival in AK or just before, and a second negative test 7 days later or self isolating for 14 days prior to attending a course. Students and instructors should not attend a course if they have been in contact with someone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 without isolating for 14 days prior to the course start date. Students and instructors should not attend a course if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.

A safety plan will be developed for each course to ensure student and instructor safety.

Personal Protective Equipment
Students must arrive for our classes with a surgical mask for indoor lessons and a cloth face covering for outdoor fieldwork. Mask usage is an integral part of our risk reduction strategy. If you are unable to tolerate wearing a mask for up to four hours at a time you should delay your attendance until your condition changes or the requirement is removed.

Modified Cancellation Policy in Effect until April 15, 2021
Our 2020-21 course offerings are designed for students committed to learning. Doing so requires a balance of flexibility and commitment from students and our school. We have modified our cancellation policy in light of COVID-19 uncertainty until April 15, 2021.

If we must cancel a course due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of course fees and tuition. We know this will incur costs for our nonprofit organization and students may elect to donate any portion of their tuition back to the organization to allow us to further reach our mission of community snow safety in perpetuity.

Declaration of Health
All students will be required to complete a Declaration of Health statement both prior to and at the start of the course. If a student is unable to attend the course due to the health declaration they will be provided with a full refund. Best efforts will be made to enroll the student in an upcoming course as soon as they have been assessed by a health care provider and are determined to be free of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases and their symptoms have resolved.

Symptoms on Course
Students who present symptoms associated with COVID-19 while on the course will be removed from the course environment at the sole discretion of AAS staff. Symptomatic students will be unable to return to class once removed and will be issued at 100% tuition refund. The continuation of the course for the remaining instructors and students will be assessed on a case by case basis.


Essential Eligibility Criteria for In-Person Courses

All participants are expected to participate fully in this strategy.

Self-screening
If you have any of the following, you should not attend class:

  • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nasal congestion or sneezing (different than pre-existing allergies), abdominal discomfort (nausea/diarrhea), muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
  • A temperature of over 100.4F/38C.
  • In the past 14 days, have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19. If a healthcare provider, in the past 14 days, have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 without wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Hygiene
We will provide the resources to practice heightened classroom hygiene. You will be expected to:

  • Wash or sanitize your hands after interactions with others and/or entering or leaving group settings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or your arm if you sneeze or cough.
  • Wipe down surfaces and equipment after use using the provided cleaning materials.

Personal Protective Equipment
We will provide some personal protective equipment for our staff including masks, face shields, gloves and cleaning supplies. You will be expected to:

  • Bring a 3-layer surgical mask for each indoor day of instruction. You will be given guidance on when mask use is required. Assume this will be at all times in the indoor classroom and when physical distancing is not feasible in the outdoor classroom. Cloth face coverings or buffs are acceptable for outdoor use. You will change or wash your mask daily.
  • Bring eye protection (sunglasses, safety glasses, and goggles are ok) to wear when working in close contact with other participants.

Distancing
When feasible, physical distancing will be practiced. You will be expected to:

  • Wear additional personal protective equipment (masks and eyewear) when practicing skills close to our teaching staff and fellow students.

Compliance/Culture
We believe in the value of training people to help others and in supporting the best public health practices. You will be expected to:

  • Model your commitment to quality risk management by supporting these strategies.
  • Help others remember and adapt to these new practices.
  • Stay home if you feel sick or the instructor asks you to leave class based on screening.

FAQ

Will my AAS course be safe from coronavirus?
Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is a new risk for everyone and, like many other risks, cannot be eliminated.  Our operations have been updated, developed, and implemented to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and to detect signs of illness. For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please carefully consider, in conjunction with your healthcare provider, whether to attend an AAS course at this time.

Am I required to follow the stated practices?
Yes, all students and instructors are expected to adhere to the above practices and refusal to comply is grounds for dismissal from a course. These practices are designed to reduce the risk of illness for all participants and demonstrate a commitment to community safety.

What if I have a mask exemption card or letter?
Mask usage is an integral part of our risk reduction strategy. If you are unable to tolerate wearing a mask for up to four hours at​ a time you should delay your attendance until your condition changes or the requirement is removed.

Am I required to get a COVID-19 test prior to my course?
Testing is not required prior to participation in an AAS course but it is not discouraged.

Have you made any updates to the paperwork I need to be aware of?
We have updated many of our admissions documents to reflect updates to our policies and now ask students to acknowledge risks associated with in-person learning at this time:

  • Our Acknowledgment of Risk Form states, “Participation in all in-person courses hosted by the Alaska Avalanche School poses similar risks as interacting with society at large, including contracting communicable diseases, such as COVID-19.”
  • We have modified our cancellation policy to honor a 100% tuition refund for Covid related student cancellations.
  • Students are required to complete a self-screening health survey the day before their course.

What should I be aware of while traveling to my course?
We request that you follow Alaska state travel mandates and take additional steps to limit your exposure for 14 days prior to and while traveling to your course. This includes practicing physical (social) distancing, wearing a mask or face covering when in public or when physical distancing is not possible, frequent hand washing, and monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19.

What happens if I get sick before my course?
Do not travel to your AAS course if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), have in the past 14 days been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19, or you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 14 days. We will work with you to transfer your enrollment to a later course or provide a full tuition refund.

What happens if I get sick during my course?
If you become ill during your course or your instructor asks you not to attend class based on screening, you should seek medical advice. Based on the medical advice you receive you may or may not be able to continue with your course. AAS will evaluate each situation and work with you to issue a full tuition refund or to assist you in finishing your course at a later time.

What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19 during my course?
If a student tests positive for COVID-19 during your course, AAS will work directly with the public health authority to assure all participants receive appropriate guidance and medical advice. If AAS cancels the remainder of the course, we will work with students to issue tuition refunds or to assist them in finishing their course at a later time. AAS is not responsible for expenses related to a positive diagnosis on a course.

Will AAS cancel my course?
AAS reserves the right to cancel any course based on changing information or restrictions that affect our ability to operate at a given location. We will notify students as soon as possible if this occurs.

What if I have more questions?
Please contact us at: info@alaskaavalanche.org, (937) 265-0061- our office “937” google voice number.