Several Mat-Su schools close after increase of COVID-19 cases tied to maskless sports, activities

Smoke above the Mat-Su community of Butte. (Patty Sullivan/Matanuska-Susitna Borough)

Several Matanuska-Susitna Borough schools remain closed this week amid an increase in COVID-19 infections, which the school district attributes mostly to student athletes going maskless while playing indoor sports.

Mat-Su school activities and sports were paused over the weekend, resuming Monday for schools allowed to stay open. But the district is returning to a rule that students in athletics and activities must wear masks at all times, even on the “field of play.”

The district had recently relaxed its rules to require masks only on the sidelines, said Reese Everett, the Mat-Su School District Associate Superintendent of instruction who oversees school activities and sports.

“What we found, unfortunately, is that we had a lot of cases that occurred over the past week or 10 days that were directly tied to those activities, and had an adverse impact on our ability to keep at-school learning open for all students,” Everett said.

Not all of the cases are linked to sports, but the majority were. There was some indication the virus had spread through close contact during other school activities, too, Everett said.

After a closure Monday, Mat-Su Career and Tech High School reopened to in-person learning Tuesday. Wasilla High remained closed Tuesday. Palmer High was closed at least through Wednesday, and Colony High and Middle schools and Pioneer Peak Elementary were set to stay closed through Friday.

According to the district, students and teachers at closed schools have shifted to online learning.

But the closures could be extended, as decisions are made on a day-by-day basis, Everett said. Activities are shut down until the schools reopen.

The most up-to-date information on Mat-Su Borough School District closures is available at the district’s COVID-19 information page.