Frequently Asked Questions About School Closure and Testing updated 5/10/2021

Vaccination Update
Posted on 05/10/2021

**UPDATE** May 10th, 2021 
Today we received information that there were positive cases of Covid in Hoonah. Students in one of our classes was in contact with one of the persons who tested positive. Following the district's Smart Start Plan we have quarantined that class and are requiring a negative PCR test to be taken at the 7th day after exposure which is Friday May 15th. Presenting a negative result will allow students in that class to return to school on Monday May 17th. All students will be out of school on Tuesday May 11th for cleaning purposes. School will resume on Wednesday May 12th. Please monitor our district website for further updates. 

**UPDATE** April 29th, 2021 

A short while ago we were made aware that the one of the coaches from Angoon tested positive for Covid. As a precaution we are testing all of our basketball team members using the Rapid PCR test. While we feel this is not a high risk we want to err on the  side of caution. If we get any positive results we will move to the next level of our plan. Please monitor our district website for further updates. 

**UPDATE** April 14, 2021 

Strict social distancing does not apply to students under the age of 16, but are required to test upon arrival.

Unvaccinated students 16 and over do have to take a COVID test and have to follow the testing and strict social distancing guidelines.

Vaccinated persons over the age of 16 and children under the age of 16 are not required to strict social distance even when living in a home where there is a person who is unvaccinated and required to strict social distance.

Feel free to make those decisions based on your comfort level.

Update 4/14/2021 3:10pm
Our next round of testing is scheduled for April 15, 2021, during school hours.

Update 3/11/2021 9:35am
Our next round of testing is scheduled for March 16, 2021, during school hours.

Update 2/08/2021 11:06am

Our next round of testing is scheduled for February 15, 2021, durning school hours.

Updated 1/28/2021 3:25pm
Reminder to families: If you are arriving to Hoonah the strict social distancing guidelines apply to all members in your household until the required time has been met.

Updated 1/19/2021 4:00pm

Overview of Test Results:
Community, we did have a few of our test results that came back invalid. An invalid test is a test where there was not enough sample collected to make a determination. An invalid test is not a positive or negative test. The invalid tests were cross referenced with other family members in the same household that tested at the same time and whose test came back negative. Based on the recommendation of Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen, the state of  Alaska's Covid liaison to school districts, it was determined that it is safe to send those students back to school based while we wait on their test results.

The district has contacted these individuals and they have been retested as of today. As long as there are no other factors that would cause concern, we will have the persons who test came back invalid return to school tomorrow. 


Ralph M. Watkins


Hoonah City Schools

Updated 1/19/2021 11:15am

Test results are in. we are pleased to report that we have no positive cases in our result and school will resume face to face tomorrow 1/20/2021. Please remember we are still following our Covid protocols. Masks and social distancing, and other mitigations are still in effect. We are excited to welcome your child back to school. 


Ralph M. Watkins


Hoonah City Schools

Updated 1/18/2021 4pm

As of 4pm we have not received test results. We will continue with distance learning until results arrive. Thank you for your continued patience and support.


Ralph M. Watkins


Hoonah City Schools

Updated 1/18/2021 1:30pm

Dear parents, students, and staff,

As of 1:30 pm we have not received test results. We recognize how frustrating this process is and we are staying on top of checking for results. Many of you have the ability to check your child’s results and are seeing the same message we are that the results are processing. We did receive a message late yesterday saying there was a delay but we should have results today. That is our hope. If results arrive and are verified by 4pm we will notify you of our intension to proceed with face to face instruction. If results have not been received we will continue with virtual delivery until results are in. Thank you for your continued patience and support.


Ralph M. Watkins


Hoonah City Schools

Updated 1/17/2020 5:00pm

Dear families Students and Staff

After a meeting with the district’s Smart Start Team, we will continue to wait on test results before returning to school. We recognize the challenges this creates but we must be cautious in our decision making. The presence of Covid in our wastewater gives us reason to pause. This decision was not made lightly. We are not transitioning into distance learning. We are taking a teacher workday and students will have tomorrow off. We will inform our stakeholders when we receive our results and make decisions as to what we will do on Monday by 3pm. We feel it is important to remain consistent and follow our Smart Start Plan as it was intended. Thank you for your patience and continued support.

Updated January 17, 2021
Dear Parents, staff, and students
As many of you know Covid was detected in the Hoonah Wastewater sample. According to city administration the level detected was slight but present nonetheless. Because we have no confirmed cases we are proceeding with school as scheduled. We will continue to implement the Covid mitigations we have in place. If you or your child are experiencing any symptoms, fever, cough, or other symptoms please do not come to school. We are expecting our school test results at anytime and if something changes you will be notified via school messenger and the HCSD website. Thank you for your patience and continued support.
Dear Parents, staff, and students
Happy New Year. What an eventful year this has been. Let me say thank you to all of you for your continued patience and understanding as we try and navigate our new pandemic normal. I want to assure you that HCSD is committed to the safety of our students and staff and will continue to work along with the city, state, and health officials in the decisions we make regarding school operations. There are positive things happening with regards to vaccines that will help in controlling the spread of the Covid virus and will hopefully lead us back to a more normal way of doing things. Until that time we will continue to make adjustments as information becomes more available.

We wanted to give you an update on our Covid Testing program and get your input on returning to face to face instruction. 

In a meeting on Monday December 28th, with school, city and HIA administrators, we discussed the the possibility of pushing back testing from January 3rd and 4th to January 10th and 11th and have decided to make this change. This change means we will remain in our distance learning until January 18th. 

On pushing back the testing: As you are aware, the landscape of the Covid is in constant change. We have these factors to consider:

1. We have had the most travel of our students and staff off the island during Christmas break. 

2. We are seeing the highest number of both positive cases and death rates in our country. 

3. It is predicted that we may see even a higher number of positive cases across the country in January. 

4. Vaccines will start to be administered within the week to staff. 

The reason for considering this change was that it would give ample incubation time for the Covid virus before administering the PCR test. We contacted Dr. Olsen with the state Smart Start Team and asked her about the incubation time.  She agreed that when you allow between the 6-10 day of incubation you will increase your accuracy of identifying a person with Covid to greater than 96% of the time. The unknown factor that we have in our case is when staff and students will return to the island and start their social distancing. 

We will be testing January 10th and 11th, we will deliver distance learning instruction the weeks of January 4th through January 15th. We will return to face to face January 18th.  We feel that if we can get a solid restart after Christmas, there is a strong possibility of making it to the end of school with face to face instruction. 

We have contacted the Smart Start Team and the school board regarding pushing back both testing and face to face instruction and there is agreement that this is best. Please note we don’t take this decision lightly. We recognize the challenges this puts on families, staff, and students but we are convinced that erring on the side of safety is a good idea.

Please note: Instruction will begin on Monday January 4th. Instruction will continue virtually until January 16th, with a return to face to face instruction on January 18th. If you have further questions please contact the school office or email your questions to [email protected]. Thank you for your continued support and patience.


Ralph M. Watkins

Hoonah City School


December 17th, 2020

Hoonah City Schools Parents and Staff,

We really appreciate everyone helping us to complete our first round of Covid Testing. As we near Christmas, we wanted remind everyone of our plan for how we intend to start back to face-to-face instruction after Christmas Break. We appreciate everyone being supportive of us trying to provide the best education possible while we also try to keep our community healthy.

 Christmas Break Restart:

After Christmas Break Distance learning will continue January 4th-8th.

Covid Testing will be:

Sunday January 3rd 2pm to 5pm

Monday January 4th 10am to 5pm

Results should be in by Sunday January 10th.

As long as we receive the results on Sunday, we start back to face to face instruction on Monday January 11th. If we do not receive the test results on Sunday, we wait until we receive the test results to start back to face to face instruction. In the event that we do not start face to face on Monday January 11th, we will continue in distance learning.

Missed the HIA facilitated molecular PCR test at the school:

Option 1: Contact HIA and request an appointment to be tested.  Please realize, HIA does not send out individual tests to the lab. Therefore, this will delay you receiving your test results for several days. Staff and students must receive a negative test result from HIA before they can start back to school.

Option 2: Go to a testing center at your current location and take a Covid molecular PCR no more than 72 hours within return to the island. A negative molecular Covid result must be presented to the school in writing from the site and type of Covid test administered specified.

Travel off the Island:

If you plan to travel off the island during the break, it is imperative that you follow all local and state guidelines for testing and regarding social distancing before returning to school.  

School COVID Testing FAQ

Click here to view HCSD Travel and Return to School Procedure

According to Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, when a communicable disease outbreak begins, the ideal response is for public health officials to begin testing for it early. This leads to quick identification of cases, quick treatment for those people and immediate isolation to prevent spread. Early testing also helps to identify anyone who came into contact with infected people so they too can be quickly treated. While we are obviously not in that ideal situation with COVID-19, testing remains critical.

 The Community of Hoonah is in a unique place in that we have the capacity to do what many cannot. We have tests available, which are crucial to helping to slow the spread of COVID within our city boundaries. When the idea of the city's testing plans were shared with the office of Public Health, the wholeheartedly supported it. (click here to see the attached letter of support from the Office of Public Health) Hoonah City Schools is uniquely positioned to benefit from this increased capacity. The ordinance requiring testing has been approved since October 15th. Testing at the airports and ferry terminals has been active since then. We pushed the start of school testing forward in response to our recent community transmission within the city. We have been fortunate to have face to face instruction in our community since the start of school. This cannot be said of many of our neighboring schools and communities.

 This latest event however, really highlights how even when you do your best, stopping COVID completely is just not possible. Although, for many young people the adverse reaction to  COVID even if infected has not proved severe in most cases. However, some as young as two years have had severe adverse reactions to this virus. And although the reactions are not bad the ability to spread the infection is high.

 We don’t want to lose any of our friends, family, students, or staff to this virus. It is important therefore that we take the necessary precautions. Testing is another layer of protection, not just for the student or staff member but for the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, those with compromising health issues that make them more susceptible to the virus, and ultimately for the community of Hoonah as a whole. I understand that this process seems to be coming out of nowhere, but it’s not. Hoonah City Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We are committed to face to face instruction. We know the benefits of students being in class with their teachers and friends. We have to operate safely. Testing increases our ability to do just that.

 Below are frequently asked questions to answer some of the  questions you might have. For further information you can contact the City of Hoonah or the Hoonah Indian Association.

 Why are we testing?

 As part of our Smart Start Plan, testing part or all of our school body is an additional mitigation strategy.

 Why is pre-registration required?

 To give HIA staff time to enter the data into the testing Web Site.  The form being used is similar to the one currently being used by HIA because the information goes into the same portal and the required information is the same.

How is the test administered?

The test is administered using a swab to collect DNA from the inside of the jaw, gums, and 

Who is administering the test?

 A retired Registered Nurse that has been hired by HIA.

 How long does it take to get the test results?

 3 to 5 days

 Is the lab where the samples are being sent certified to perform diagnostic testing?

 Yes.  The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) regulate laboratory testing and require clinical laboratories to be certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) before they can accept human samples for diagnostic testing.

 What type of test is administered?

 PCR test. Also called a molecular test, this COVID-19 test detects genetic material of the virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). If sent to an outside lab PCR tests are very accurate when properly performed by a healthcare professional. 

 Why is HIA involved in testing school students and staff?  

 HIA had the forethought to write a grant to secure tests for the community of Hoonah to increase our level of safety and awareness of the virus in our community.

 Is the test being used FDA approved?

 Yes this test is approved by the FDA.

 How will testing for students and staff be scheduled?

 The staff and student body is divided into quarters. A cross section of the population is in each group. ¼ of the staff and student population will be tested weekly.

 How will I be notified if my child tests positive?

 Test results are uploaded to a secure and encrypted portal. There are two administrators of the portal. If a student or staff member tests positive the school is notified and the school will notify the family. Results are also sent to the public health department as required by the state of Alaska.

 How will staff be notified if they test positive?

 Staff members are provided a token to check their own results. However, if a staff member tests positive the administrator of the portal will notify the school. Administration will notify the staff member.

 What happens if a student or staff member tests positive?

 A positive test from staff or students will trigger an immediate response. School with transition into distance delivery until the staff or student has been isolated and contact tracing has been done. Once these things have happened school can resume face to face.

 Is requiring testing legal under city statute?


Chapter 8.04 - HEALTH OFFICEr

8.04.010 - Powers and duties.

The health officer may, whenever he deems it necessary, examine, or cause to be examined by some competent physician, all persons entering the city of Hoonah, from any town, city, district, location state or other place when the officer has reason to believe there are any cases of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, or other contagious or infectious diseases; and for the purpose of making such examination, the health officer shall have authority to enter any ship, steamboat or other watercraft, or any vehicle; and the health officer may direct and enforce the cleansing and purifying of any such ship, steamboat or other watercraft, or any vehicle; and the health officer may provide by and with the consent of the city council, a suitable place for the temporary detention of persons, who have been exposed to the infection of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox or other infectious or contagious diseases, and the health officer shall have the power to order and compel the person or persons to remain in such place of detention for such time as may be necessary, and to forbid and prevent any and all communications with such person or persons. The health officer shall have the power to forbid or prevent any and all persons living or being in or about such house or premises where any person has been sick with small pox, cholera, yellow fever or any other infectious or contagious disease, and from leaving such house or premises without first having obtained permission to do so from the health officer. It shall be the duty of the health officer to enforce all ordinances containing provisions for the protection of public health; to make inspections of foodstuffs and of the premises used for storing or selling of provisions as may be provided by ordinance; and shall perform such other duties and functions as may be required by statute or ordinance; and shall perform such other duties and functions as may be required by statute or ordinance. (

Is the district denying students an education if they choose not to participate in the testing?


The Hoonah City School District is in no way denying any student an education. In accordance with the ordinance unless a student or staff member participates in the testing they can not attend face to face instruction.

 What results from non-participation by students?

 f a student’s family chooses not to have them participate in the testing, that student has the option to enroll in our virtual program which meets state education requirements.
Online learning will not look like the virtual learning that is occurring while the entire school has been moved to online learning. When the rest of the school returns to in person learning, those who choose to do online learning will be doing  self-paced online Apex courses, not connected to the classroom.

 What is virtual learning? Click here for more information about virtual learning

 Virtual learning is a parent directed, teacher supported, virtual classroom. Students are enrolled in online platforms where they work at their own pace to complete core content coursework. Virtual learning is teacher supported but not teacher led. 

 How is virtual learning different from distance learning?

 Click here for more information about virtual learning

 Distance learning is a hybrid of online learning using the same digital platforms as used in virtual learning. The difference is the interaction with teachers. The student can be online independently or in concert with a teacher or class in an online classroom (Zoom classrooms)





Hoonah City School Smart Start Plan

  • Frequently asked questions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)

Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA)

World Heath Organization (WHO)

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