Boy basketball player reaching for ball. Fans in the stands in background.

In a meeting last week, the School Board for the Bering Strait School District (BSSD) approved a plan for basketball teams to travel between villages that are in the “GREEN” zone.

Here’s BSSD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Bolen listing a few components of the COVID-19 mitigation plan:

“The testing of all students prior to leaving to another village to compete, as well as, following the COVID testing when they get back into their village on Monday morning and then again, seven days later. They do need to wear masks all the time when they’re traveling and when they’re not actually on the court.”

– Superintendent Bolen

It is optional for students to remove their mask when actually playing on the court, but they must still wear a mask when sitting on the bench.

In addition, Bolen says, students will not be allowed to go out into the community and will stay at the school for the duration of their visit in another village. The district will be using their own plane or their own charters with Bering Air for travel, in order to avoid any layovers in Nome.

But in order to circumvent existing quarantine requirements, BSSD is asking individual communities to institute an exemption for school-sanctioned travel. At this point, there are three communities that have mandates in place to allow student-athletes to travel, but BSSD expects several others to follow suit.

According to BSSD Activities Specialist Brendan Ellis, several communities and their local school communities have voiced their support, but they are still waiting on local governments to adopt the new mitigation plan into their mandates.

“We also ask that each village that has basketball, whether they want to host or they want kids to travel, that they have an exclusion in their travel ban policy to allow students participating in school-sponsored student activities to not have to quarantine upon return.”

– Superintendent Bolen

As of Monday, BSSD has travel approval mandates from Shaktoolik, Teller, and Unalakleet, and the district is expecting 5 more villages to approve.

Superintendent Bolen expects BSSD students will have about four weekends of basketball games, with a possibility of also competing against the Nome Nanooks before this year’s season ends.

“We are working with Nome Public Schools and NACTEC to also have the potential for students to be able to travel from their village straight to Nome, be picked up in the NACTEC van with our staff that have been tested and/or vaccinated, stay at the NACTEC house because they are not allowed to go into the city of Nome, and all meals would be brought in. They would just walk over to the gym and back.”

– Superintendent Bolen

Nome-Beltz Middle and High School participated in another series of basketball games over the weekend. The Nome JV Boys defeated the Lady Nanooks 70-25. The Nome Varsity Boys lost to the adult recreational team by only 2 points, with a final score of 56-54. The middle-school girls’ White team bested the Blue team, 37-34. The middle school boys’ A team fell to the JV Boys; the final score was 38-34. Finally, the middle school boys’ Blue and White teams played each other, with the Blue team defeating White 23-10.

Currently, all but one of BSSD’s 15 schools are operating in the “GREEN” and open for in-person learning. The Koyuk-Malimiut school is in “RED” as of right now, but it is scheduled to change to “YELLOW” status next Monday.

Image at top: UNK Boys Basketball Player (2020). Photo by Lisa Haugen of Unalakleet, used with permission.

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