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School with masks, no fall journey

By Melinda Munson

The Smart Start to School ad hoc committee met on July 22 to discuss the draft plan for starting in-person school on Aug. 27. In the two weeks since the last school board meeting, an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state led to a tightening of proposed protocol for Skagway City School’s reopening.

“Everything is going to look and be a whole lot different,” said John Hischer, school board president.

The draft plan separates the risk level into zones: green (low), yellow (moderate) and red (severe). Currently, Skagway is in the green zone with zero confirmed cases of COVID-19. Should there be an outbreak, the school would enter the red zone and all instruction would be online. 

Under the updated draft, anyone entering the school who is physically capable is required to wear a face covering. This rule extends to the playground and indoor sports. Skagway School purchased neck gaiters and will distribute two to each student. Face shields may be an acceptable alternative in some situations. 

Several parents in the audience expressed their concern regarding the mask rule. Chezare Leipold, a member of the school board and mother of three, expressed the difficulty she, as an adult, has wearing a mask. Some parents and teachers nodded in agreement when she spoke.

The mask discussion might be a moot issue. According to Borough Clerk Emily Deach, “the assembly is considering an ordinance requiring cloth face coverings in municipal facilities, including the school, at its next meeting August 6.” The measure was proposed by Mayor Andrew Cremata.

Drop-off procedure would also differ vastly from last year, with parents needing special permission to enter the school. Upon arrival, students would be screened for fevers at or above 100.3 degrees.  

Teachers are working on recording tours of their classrooms so students know what to expect on the first day. Many instructors also plan to have Zoom meetings with each student and their family prior to the start of school.

All sporting events would be cancelled and no travel would occur during fall semester. The school is looking into continuing extracurricular activities in a way that sustains social distancing.

Distance learning is available for any student who feels uncomfortable with in-person classes.

It was determined that upgrading the school’s filters is not an option due to the age of the system. The committee discussed purchasing air purifiers for each room.

The school board will discuss the draft plan at its next meeting on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. Comments can be submitted to skgschoff@skagwayschool.org.

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