Ketchikan superintendent of schools Beth Lougee has been medevaced to the Lower 48 as she battles complications from COVID-19. That’s according to an all-staff email sent Thursday.
The district’s business manager, Katie Parrott, said that Lougee was “doing well” and that she’ll be acting in Lougee’s place until further notice. Senior school district administrator Bob Hewitt will also help fill in for the superintendent.
The district says Lougee was hospitalized at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on Tuesday. She had recently returned to work from bereavement leave after losing her husband, David, last month to complications from COVID-19. He was the superintendent of a school district in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. She was working remotely and is not known to have come into contact with other school district employees.
Parrott told KRBD on Thursday that she’s collecting cards for Lougee to be delivered once she returns to work. The superintendent is reportedly hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington. She’s with members of her family, the all-staff letter said.
Also Thursday, Ketchikan’s school board voted to keep most of the district’s middle and high schools at half capacity through at least next Friday, Feb. 19.
Ketchikan’s emergency manager, Abner Hoage, had told the board the previous day that the community’s pandemic risk was still at its second-highest level.
“Our positivity rate is still at 2.66% today. Anything above 2% and up to 3% is our Level 3 risk level that we’re currently in,” Hoage said.
Based on the area’s average number of cases and tests, Hoage estimated that the risk level would stay elevated until roughly Feb. 23. School board president Kim Hodne said the board would reconvene on Feb. 18 to determine whether students could return to full-time classroom instruction.
The school district’s COVID-19 plan is tied to the locally-reported risk level. That’s determined by Ketchikan-area mayors and other senior officials after consulting a variety of pandemic metrics. The school district moved to a mix of in-person and distance learning this week after local officials upgraded the community’s risk to “high.”
In other business Thursday, the board revised the school district’s quarantine and testing policies to align with federal recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control said late last year that people without COVID-19 symptoms can be released from quarantine after 10 days — or as little as a week if they test negative for the disease five or more days after exposure.
The board also approved a minor revision to the district’s health screenings. The tweak aims to allow people with a pending COVID-19 test unrelated to exposure or symptoms to attend school in person.
And finally, Ketchikan’s school board granted high school teacher Todd Henke a year-long sabbatical. He’ll be taking the leave at half-pay to study homebuilding and guitar-making in the Lower 48.
The board also approved the 2021-2022 school district calendar Wednesday.