by Melinda Munson

Skagway City School was in an enviable position when it started in-person school on Aug. 27 with no confirmed cases of COVID-19.

According to Dr. Josh Coughran superintendent, so far, things have gone well.

“I’m not certain why I was so nervous about how our students would respond to all of the changes to the environment, they have responded beautifully,” he said.

Due to COVID-19, parents had the option of in-person school, Alaska Statewide Virtual School, which uses Skagway School teachers to support students while they learn from home, or leaving the district altogether and homeschooling.

“One of the most deleterious impacts of the pandemic on school districts is the potential for decreased enrollment … nearly every school district in Alaska is reporting a decline in enrollment which will lead to an inevitable decline in state funding. I am happy to report that is not the case in Skagway…” Coughran said.

The school’s 2021 fiscal year budget was based on a student enrollment of 130. Skagway School started the 2020 year with 132 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Fourteen of those students are home-based. Nine students withdrew and transitioned to home schooling programs not affiliated with the district. 

Juneau School District started classes on Aug. 24 with distance learning for all students at all schools. As of publication, the city has recorded 294 cases of COVID-19.  

With just two documented cases of COVID-19, Haines Borough School District began in-person school on Aug. 18, requiring masks and social distancing.

Skagway School started the 2020 academic year in the green zone, meaning there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the community.

“I’m certain we will have challenges and obstacles along the way, but if the attitudes I’ve seen persist, we will meet them with resiliency and creativity,” Coughran said.