Ketchikan’s school board voted Wednesday evening to slightly dial back mask requirements for the coming school year. But with COVID-19 infections near all-time highs in Ketchikan, it’s likely all staff and students will start the year with mandatory face masks.

The board largely approved a draft plan developed by the school district’s Start Strong Committee, which provides for 100% in-person learning regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in the community. Protective measures, including mask rules and restrictions on visitors, will change with the number of active cases in Ketchikan.

Masks will be mandatory for all students and staff when more than 25 COVID-19 infections are active in Ketchikan, corresponding to “medium” and “high” risk levels under the plan. When five or fewer cases are active, and the district risk level is “low,” masks are optional for all.

The change the board made was to the “moderate” risk plan, when between 6 and 25 COVID-19 cases are active in Ketchikan. Under the most recent draft, elementary students could remove their masks at a moderate risk level, but middle- and high-schoolers would be required to wear them.

But by a 4-3 vote, the board made masks optional within classrooms for students of all grade levels at moderate risk. Staff members will be required to wear a mask, and they’ll be mandatory for all in common areas like hallways. Board President Kim Hodne joined members Diane Gubatayao, Nicole Anderson and Paul Robbins Jr. in voting to amend the mask rules. The back-to-school plan as a whole was approved unanimously following the amendment.

The school district’s risk level for the following week will be determined every Friday. As of Wednesday evening, 116 cases of COVID-19 are active in Ketchikan. If more than 50 cases remain active as of Friday afternoon, students will start the year on August 26 under the high risk plan. That means mandatory masks, no visitors in school buildings, health screenings for students before entering classrooms, and no spectators at school events.

The final approved plan is available online.