Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - With the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center raising the COVID-19 community risk to a Level 3 High, the Juneau School District is working to keep the weekend high school sports events scheduled, according to JSD Superintendent Bridget Weiss.
“Everything is happening rapidly,” Weiss said. “We are adjusting as quickly as we can to new expectations and guidelines. We do still believe at this point, we are still a couple days away, to be able to continue with our activities for the weekend. They are outdoor activities, which help us tremendously.”
Teams from host Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain, Petersburg, Haines and Skagway are scheduled to attend Saturday’s Sayeik Invitational cross-country meet at Sandy Beach, an event that also includes a community race. The Juneau Huskies football team is set to host a much anticipated matchup with Anchorage’s Dimond High School Lynx.
Weiss said the Dimond team will come in, play and leave all in the same day. That is the same mitigation plan the Huskies and the Crimson Bears and Falcons submitted to the district before their seasons started.
“We’ve already put into place a lot of mitigation strategies to help us do this as safely as possible,” she said. “Again, we are still a couple days out so things could change. For the cross-country meet, we may have some districts deciding not to come.”
The Juneau School District is tied to the city mitigation plan.
“We have some exceptions because we have a different environment and a mandatory requirement to provide services to kids,” Weiss said. “We have certain exemptions in order to be able to operate. But when it comes to the masking decision and we are outdoors on their property for sports, then we expect our guests to follow those guidelines.”
Weiss said the school district expects attendees at sporting events this weekend to be distanced by six-feet or wearing masks.
“We don’t want a crowded stands with no masks,” she said.
Weiss said policing that policy is the challenge and is asking for the community’s help.
“Our ability to keep activities running is dependent on how healthy we can keep people and how the COVID level in Juneau goes up and down,” she said. “We can’t force anyone to do anything and we certainly have a challenge. We saw last year just the challenge at some of our events monitoring that. So we really rely on people’s cooperation.”
Continued COVID spread or mitigation policy refusals by attendees could result in activities, and in-person schooling, being shut down.
Weiss said each activity's travel situation is being monitored with considerations given to where events are held, whether the event is indoors or outdoors, the length of a trip and the mitigation levels of the host and traveling communities.
“We try to be clear on all the variant pieces,” Weiss said. “Literally every trip has been different based on circumstances. We hold ourselves to a high standard in terms of what we are doing to provide the right opportunities for kids and support for kids and to keep our schools and our community safe. At the end of our day the biggest number one priority continues and will always be to sustain full time in-person learning with the least number of disruptions as possible. That’s our first priority, everything else has to fit in around that.”
Teams traveling into Juneau must follow JSD mitigation policies.
According to the state health department, about 76% of Juneau residents 12 or older are fully vaccinated. Statewide, that figure is about 54%.
Most of the state is considered at a high alert level, a designation based on new reported cases in the past seven days. Juneau and Anchorage are among those in high-alert areas.
Currently, athletes can play outdoors with no masks. Spectators must be masked.
Student-athletes are also tested weekly and can exempt out of testing if they are fully vaccinated. There is not a requirement to be vaccinated, but to be tested.
Weiss said the number of fans attending events, even outdoors, might be capped if COVID numbers increase.
“That was one strategy we used last year when we needed to,” she said. “We were hoping not to have to do that but we may have to transition into that if we don’t see a change in the trend here in Juneau.”