Screening and testing tents set up outside the Petersburg airport early this fall. (Angela Denning/KFSK)

The Petersburg School Board adopted a new policy requiring COVID-19 testing for staff and students returning from in-state travel. The school board made the decision at a special meeting Monday night. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

The state does not require testing for in-state travel so the Petersburg School District decided to come up with its own policy for staff and students. The policy mirrors the state’s mandate for out-of-state travel requiring five days of isolation in addition to at least one negative test result.

Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter said she supported the new requirement because of the rising COVID numbers around the state.

“Everything we’re doing is trying to do the very best that we can to keep our kids in school,” said Kludt-Painter. “It’s not perfect; this is not perfect. I keep thinking of it as a sieve, a little colander, there are still little leaks all over the place but we are doing the very best we can with the information we have.”

The policy is for travel by any means off Mitkof Island—by plane, boat, or ferry. It strongly recommends a second test after one week of isolation but it is not required for returning to school. There is also an option for a two week quarantine instead of testing.

Initially, Board Member Jay Lister wasn’t sold on the policy because he said he didn’t want to confuse the public with more rules.

“I worry a little bit about the confusion,” he said. “You’ve got all these different travel restrictions from all these different places and you’re trying to figure out who is supposed to quarantine where. You’ve got six different set of rules.”

Board Member Megan Litster said the policy would actually make it easier on people because all the travel requirements would be the same for in-state and out of state travel.

“By us implementing this it would actually smooth that out a little bit because it would make it consistent for the school across the board,” said Litster.

Board President Sarah Holmgrain said she received a lot of feedback from the community supporting a new policy. She said she supported it because it would help keep the schools open and could prevent problems if people aren’t being careful.

“[If] you had a whole family that left and had kids in multiple grades and didn’t follow the protocols and came back in and then you have potentially all three schools shut down,” said Holmgrain.

The policy includes an exemption for travel under 72 hours like the state’s policy for out of state travel does. That addition helped gain the support of two school board members—Cheryl File and Katie Holmlund–who were concerned about medical trips for staff and students.

The 72-hour exemption would also cover short travel by school groups or others doing personal trips.

Kludt-Painter said that she didn’t think the school district should monitor small boat trips to nearby communities.

“So if someone is leaving to go on a hunting trip to Prince of Wales Island somewhere on their own boat, I’m not particularly interested in managing that,” she said.

The school board also discussed testing availability in Petersburg. Same-day rapid tests are limited to people with symptoms and some travelers. There is a shortage of rapid testing equipment all over the country and the Petersburg Medical Center cannot get as much as it wants.

PMC’s other test results currently have a three to five day turn around time. Asymptomatic testing through SEARHC on the weekends has a four to five day turn around.

The new school board policy is an administrative regulation, which means that it went into effect immediately and can be changed much quicker than regular board policies. The board plans to review it every few weeks.


Details of the Petersburg School District Intrastate testing policy are as follows:

1. PSD Staff or Students will take a COVID-19 test at the Petersburg Airport upon return from travel (Day 0). Travelers arriving by AMHS ferry may utilize the State Travel Portal to receive a test at the airport, just as if they had arrived by air.

2. PSD Staff or Students will practice strict social distancing** until the results of the Day 0 test results are back.

3. Once they have received negative test results, PSD Staff / Students will continue to practice strict social distancing for the remaining 5 days after their original arrival date.

4. PSD Staff or Students are recommended, but not required to have a second COVID-19 test at the Petersburg Airport on Day 7+.

5. PSD Staff or Students may report back to school at PSD on Day 6, with negative test results/boarding pass and if they are symptom-free.

6. Students should attend classes remotely if offered, and parent/student will coordinate with the classroom teacher to determine make-up work.

7. PSD Staff or Students may quarantine for 14 days after they return from travel without testing.

8. PSD Staff or Students will self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after return and promptly report symptoms.

9. PSD Staff or Students who travel for less than 72 hours are not required to test or quarantine, but should self-monitor for 14 days for any symptoms.

The district requires a copy of your boarding pass and your negative test result in order to implement the five-day option.  You are strongly encouraged to take the recommended 2nd test after day 7+, if possible.  

The only way to reduce the 14-day requirement is with at least one negative test.  

** Strict Social Distancing is defined as:

-May be in outdoor spaces but must be 6 feet away from anyone not in your household and must wear a mask.

-Curbside shopping or food delivery okay.

-Cannot enter restaurants, bars, gyms, community centers, sporting facilities, office buildings, school or daycare facilities.

-No group activities like sports, practices, weddings, funerals, etc.