Ketchikan’s school board is set to hear from medical experts on Wednesday before considering changes to things like mask requirements and quarantine policies. But much of the board is tight-lipped about what adjustments they’ll consider.
Board President Stephen Bradford says the agenda allows board members to propose changes on the fly.
“We were intentionally very broad in the possible action that we could take Wednesday night. And I anticipate that the individual board members may bring forward specific proposals that … they would like the school board to consider,” he said by phone Tuesday.
The school board has heard hours of testimony from parents, students and teachers on the district’s COVID-19 plans since the school year began in August. Board members discussed a wide range of possible changes at their last meeting on Nov. 10.
Board member Bridget Mattson suggested following the lead of the Anchorage School District, which allows students without symptoms to avoid quarantines after exposure to a close contact with COVID-19. Board member Diane Gubatayao proposed relaxing mask requirements in gym classes. And board member Paul Robbins Jr. suggested phasing out all restrictions after winter break, starting with the high school.
KRBD reached out to each board member by email to ask what actions they might propose.
Keenan Sanderson said that the board would likely draw from topics discussed at the Nov. 10 meeting.
Diane Gubatayao said she’d listen to public input before proposing specific actions, but she suggested that she might move to restructure a key committee that implements and tweaks the district’s COVID-19 plan.
As it stands, the Start Strong committee is led by the superintendent and school district administration. Gubatayao said she was considering an amendment to put the school board in charge of the committee. She said Start Strong Committee meetings are rarely documented with formal minutes, and that a board-led committee would be more transparent.
But before the board takes action, Bradford says they’re slated to hear an hour of testimony from local and state public health officials and medical professionals.
“I think that we will hear reports on the current state of affairs. As you know, there is a bit of a spike right now in the community, and some of that is coming from the schools. We anticipate some professionals from the state to also participate, and I would anticipate that they will have some specific suggestions on what they think proper mitigations and procedures are for schools,” he said.
That’ll be followed by public comment, limited to five minutes per person. Then the board will propose and debate changes to the district’s “Start Strong” COVID-19 mitigation plan. Bradford said the medical professionals likely won’t be called on for advice as the board deliberates changes to its COVID-19 protocols because of timing issues.
The meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the White Cliff Building. It’s broadcast on local cable channels and live-streamed on the borough’s website.
Disclosure: School Board President Stephen Bradford is married to a member of KRBD’s nonprofit board of directors. The board is not involved in directing news coverage.