Most Eagle River High School sports resume after district investigates party

The Anchorage School District Education Center street sign (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Most sports and activities are back on at Eagle River High School after a party led to the temporary shut down of the programs over the weekend.

Anchorage School District administrators say they were tracking about 20 students last week who either had symptoms of the coronavirus, or possible exposure to someone infected.

Secondary Education Director Marty Lang said the district then learned on Friday that some of the students had started showing symptoms days after attending a party, on Oct. 3rd, in Eagle River. That party drew students from at least five separate sports and activities.

“For the kind of health and safety of all of our students across all the sports programs there, we decided to kind of press pause, go into that 48-hour stand-down to give us just some time to paint a more complete picture, so we really could make sure that we weren’t putting anybody in greater potential risk of exposure,” Lang said. 

After a weekend of testing and contact tracing, the district gave five programs at Eagle River the go-ahead to resume activities on Monday: C-team football, flag football, bowling, gymnastics and drama, debate and forensics.

Lang said the district is still waiting on some coronavirus test results before deciding what’s next for the swimming and diving team and the rifle team. Meanwhile, the school’s varsity football team was put into a 14-day quarantine, forcing it to end its season early.

Since Anchorage school sports resumed about two months ago, multiple teams have had to quarantine.

Kersten Johnson, the district’s senior director of secondary education, said the teams planned for that.

District administrators said they did not have a tally Monday of how many student athletes have tested positive for the virus so far this season.

Johnson said the district has yet to find evidence of coronavirus spread between student athletes during practices and games. But issues are arising outside of those district-led activities, she said, like the Eagle River party.

“There’s things like carpooling together in a small car space, or spending the night together, where you’re with each other for an extended period of time,” Johnson said. “But those are the types of patterns that we’re starting to see that are really causing greater exposure for our student athletes.”

Lang said as coronavirus infections surge in the municipality, the district is looking at the viability of continuing sports programs, especially those held indoors. He said he hopes to keep the programs going as long as possible.

In-person learning, meanwhile, is postponed indefinitely at the district. Superintendent Deena Bishop is expected to give her next update on Thursday.

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