Ketchikan’s school district will hold a town hall meeting to discuss its evolving plan to resume school in the fall. That’s after intense criticism from community members at the board’s last several meetings.

The school board approved the July 27 public forum on its Smart Start plan in the Ketchikan High School auditorium.

Superintendent Beth Lougee called in to the meeting. She said district staff had met with Ketchikan’s emergency operations center and state health officials to form a committee that would determine the community’s COVID-19 risk level — and, by extension, the pandemic precautions schools would employ.

In the most recent public draft of the plan, any new cases in Ketchikan would move the community from a “low” risk level to a “medium” risk level for a minimum of two weeks. That would cut the amount of time students spend in classrooms in half — from two days a week to one. The approach followed from state guidance.

Lougee said the new approach gives the district flexibility.

“A prime example would be if the cases continue to be from one of the fishing industry workers. And if that case is secluded and we have the go-ahead, we would not change from one level to another. It would be based on what is happening in the community,” Lougee said.

That follows new state guidance that encourages school districts to examine trends in coronavirus case numbers over time.

A time hasn’t been set for the meeting but masks will be required for attendees. A special school board meeting to ratify the plan will likely follow in the days following the town hall meeting.

In other business, Ketchikan’s school board has approved two new policies clarifying professional boundaries between district staff and students as well as facilities maintenance. The two new policies were drafted by the Association of Alaska School Boards, which offers model legislation to districts across the state.

The board also approved a two-year contract with the district’s administrative assistants. The new contract gives Ketchikan’s school receptionists and secretaries a pay raise of less than 2%.

And, finally, the board approved a contract with Schmolck Mechanical Contractors to replace a broken boiler at Ketchikan High School. Funding for the roughly $240,000 contract was approved by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly earlier this year.