By Melinda Munson

The Skagway City School Board met Jan. 12 and voted to transition the school from yellow status to the green zone, beginning Jan 25. A green zone designation means there is no community spread of COVID-19. 

In the green designation, Skagway students are required to wear masks when six feet of social distancing is not possible but may remove their face covering when space allows, for example, at a student’s desk. Field trips are permitted and guardians are allowed into the building, although the school still encourages parental units to say goodbye to their charges outside of the school.

Dr. Josh Coughran, school superintendent, has the authority to shift zones without the board’s permission but said he wanted it to be a cooperative, transparent decision.

“This is such a nuanced conversation that I wanted to have it with everyone instead of going into my office and closing the door,” he said.

Skagway is one of the few districts in Alaska that can continue with in-person classes because of a small student population and a building big enough to accommodate social distancing. 

After discussion among the board, the proposed transition date of Jan. 18 was pushed back to Jan. 25 to allow more time for families who might have travelled over the winter break to receive test results or present symptoms.

Newly elected school board member Jason Verhaeghe was the sole vote against a return to green status. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consider both distance and duration as risk factors. According to the CDC, risk is minimized if masked individuals are at least six feet apart for less than 15 minutes.

The school board also discussed plans for a proposed high school basketball tournament with Haines, possibly Feb. 5-6 in Haines and Feb. 12-13 in Skagway. The board debated if flying would be safer than travelling on the ferry, if an overnight stay should be allowed and whether Haines, which doesn’t require student athletes to wear masks, would have to mask up on their home court, as Skagway does.

A special meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. to approve the trip. High school basketball players are asked to attend. Only immediate family members would be allowed to attend the Skagway games.

In other extracurriculars, music teacher Cindy Rau was proud to announce that three Skagway high school students qualified for Alaska’s 2021 All-State Mixed Choir. Adaila Deach, Tatum Sager and Ava Myers were accepted, with Deach earning first chair for alto two. 

Recordings of their performances will soon be available at 

The basketball mitigation plan can also be found on the school website.

Editor’s note: The school board meeting occurred before Thursday’s announcement of Haines’ first active COVID-19 case since November.