By Melinda Munson

The Skagway School Board voted Feb. 2, four to one, to move forward with the proposed highschool basketball tournament. It will be the first time Skagway athletes get to play another team in-person since COVID-19 disrupted student life in March 2020.

Around two dozen students attended the board meeting, many in uniform, anxious and excited at the prospect of travel and competition.

“This night is the most important night of the season for us,” said Nate Jennings, basketball girls coach.

The school board approved the competition, scheduled to take place in Hanes on Feb. 5-6 and tentatively in Skagway on March 5-6. Only immediate family members will be allowed into the gym to view the games.

The students will travel by ferry, wear masks while playing and sitting on the bench and follow other strict measures laid out in the mitigation plan found at under school board, special meetings, Feb 2.

Dr. Liz Ohlsen from the Division of Public Health, was available to answer questions at the start of the meeting. She noted that adolescents are less likely to exhibit symptoms of coronavirus but can still spread the disease, and long term effects for asymptomatics and symptomatics are still unclear.

According to Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran, Haines most recent case of COVID-19 was cleared on Feb. 1. There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in both Haines and Skagway. All but one of the testimonies at the board meeting were in favor of the tournament. Parents talked about mental health and a return to normalcy.

Boardmember Jason Verhaeghe said while he personally supported the competition, he heard from enough concerned families that he felt compelled to vote against the measure.

Basketball player, Iraida Hisman, pleaded with the board to give the teams an opportunity to compete.

“This is my senior year this year and it seems to be disappearing before my eyes,” she said.

“For right now, all we want to do is go beat Haines.”

*Update: The boys team lost both games to Haines at the Feb. 4-5 tournament with scores of 34-82 and 36-76. The girls team also lost both games, 16-55 and 13-45.