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Fairbanks School District lays out plans for high school athletics

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FNSBSD logo(Fairbanks North Star Borough School District)
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:59 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With classes back in session, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) is preparing for the 2021 spring semester with high school athletics. The sports that are starting soon are basketball, skiing and hockey.

FNSBSD Assistant Superintendent Luke Meinert provided a snapshot of what a basketball game will look like in Interior, Alaska. Everyone in attendance will be wearing masks. Players will wear them during warmups and when they are on the bench. On the court they have the option to not wear a mask. Meinert also said that there will be limited spectators for games, with student-athletes being provided a few tickets to hand out. FNSBSD’s COVID-19 mitigation plan will be similar to the one they rolled out last semester.

“It’s important to keep our kids healthy and engaged, but if they test positive or they end up being a close contact then those particular student-athletes that are affected by that will need to go into quarantine,” said Meinert on the school district’s mitigation plan. “Sometimes that happens to be just one or two students and sometimes that’s the entire team. We did have quite a few successful seasons this fall regardless of the pandemic that’s happening and I attribute that to the mitigation efforts that we have in place.”

Hockey will have only one home this upcoming season, as games will be played at the Polar Ice Arena in North Pole, Alaska. West Valley, Lathrop, Monroe Catholic and North Pole High School will be calling the Polar their home location. Hutchison High School decided last year that they would not be playing this season. There were talks in December that Interior teams might be playing hockey outside, but according to Meinert, the current plan is to stick with the Polar. The mask policy for hockey is that players are not required to wear them on the ice or on the bench.

“Originally we were exploring maybe some outdoor ice, but it is looking like right now most of our games will be at Polar,” said Meinert on their hockey plans. “We are super thankful for their partnership that they are willing to host some practices and games for us at their facility. As of right now, all of our hockey games our scheduled at Polar, we will follow their mitigation plan as well as ours.”

Skiing is an outdoor sport where student-athletes can distance themselves from each other. Meinert says that Region VI will be holding a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss their plans for the 2021 Alaska State Championships for skiing that are set for February 25-27 at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

“I think just seeing the positive aspect that engaging in extra curricular activities has for our student-athletes goes a long way,” said Meinert. “We know that students that are engaged in extra curricular activities have an incentive to do well in school, it’s a great bridge to the greater school community. Obviously there’s risks associated with engaging in any extra curricular activities but we feel like we’re providing mitigation efforts to minimize as many of the risks as possible.”

Travel will be limited for sports, as many other regions are set to only play within their districts. The Fairbanks School Districts does plan to allow a limited amount of travel to Region VI. The first day practice for boys and girls basketball is slated to start on the week of January 11 with games kicking-off on the 18th. 3A and 4A basketball conference tournaments will be played out on March 15 with the state tournaments happening the following week. Skiing has already started with regional races occurring on February 15 and state competition starting the next week. Hockey is starting around the same time as basketball, however their state tournaments are set for mid to late February. There is some wiggle room for the sport to be even played later into the semester, a path that Anchorage as a district decided to do pushing their schedule. The Alaska School Activities Association currently has contingency plans that could see hockey being played out until mid-May.

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