Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Local high school sports teams are hosting and traveling to other school districts in which their opponents may not have the same school mask policy for their athletes.
The Thunder Mountain boys soccer team is hosting the Ketchikan Kings while the Falcons girls soccer team is playing on the Lady Kings' pitch, and the Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas baseball teams are playing in Sitka.
Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss said there is a mask policy and a mandate for the city and school district.
“So any team that plays in Juneau is going to be wearing masks,” she said. “When we travel, we do ask our kids to wear masks per our policy. We can’t control what other teams do in other locations. So given those circumstances when a team is traveling to another community that is not masking, we have not prohibited that.”
Weiss said each Juneau sports program makes decisions on travel and competition based on the boundaries of what the district approves.
“We have had coaches respond differently and that is up to them to decide what they believe is in the best interest of the longevity of their program, the safety of their kids and their families, as well as families have the choice whether they send kids on any sort of a traveling trip,” she said.
Weiss noted that the City and Borough of Juneau mask mandate that requires a mask outdoors when six feet distancing cannot be maintained will be followed by Juneau coaches and athletes for any practices and competitions whether in Juneau or traveling to other communities.
Juneau coaches are responsible for informing parents of travel to districts with other mandates according to the JSD policies.
These policies also note that coaches and athletes will wear masks at all times indoors when not eating and must wear masks inside vehicles. Masks can come off inside hotel rooms or group housing and when athletes are outside and more that six feet apart. Coaches and athletes should avoid elevators or various hotel amenities with people outside their group. Other travel protocols include no eating in restaurants and not leaving with visitors they do not live with regularly or have those visitors in team hotel rooms.
According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, all of southeast Alaska is at the intermediate level for transmission of the coronavirus. Levels are high (red), intermediate (orange) and low (yellow).
Sitka Athletic Director Rich Krupa said that during the baseball games at Sitka this weekend, a mask wearing policy will require the catcher, batter, umpire, first baseman (when a base runner is on) and base runners to wear masks. All players in the dugout and coaching staff and fans between first base and third base in a public area are required to wear masks as well.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough recommends safety measures when traveling outside homes, and for indoor and outdoor mass gatherings (if gatherings of over 500 people coordination with the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center is required). Among their listed safety measures to reduce transmission are reducing occupancy and practicing physical distancing.
The Ketchikan emergency operations center maintains that even fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions in public settings including distancing and wearing a mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained and avoid gatherings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Ketchikan School District Superintendent Beth Lougee said their athletes are continuing protocols the school set in winter.
“We are requiring the coaches and the game officials to wear the masks at all times,” she said. “And players when they are actively involved do not have to wear them but when they are on the benches or sidelines they do have to wear them.”
Lougee said while schools have different protocols, she is impressed how the districts are working together.
“All of the athletic directors and coaches have really worked hard just to make sure our kids are playing and everybody is safe,” she said.
Ketchikan Athletic Director Cole Maxwell said their athletes will abide by other schools' policies while traveling.
“The home venue is who sets the rules and who sets the stage for what needs to be done,” he said. “Wherever you are those are the rules to follow. Just like going to my grandma’s house, the rules are always a little different but those are the rules you follow because you are at her house.”