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SITKA (AP) — The Sitka School District could save money if students traveling for extracurricular activities in Southeast Alaska were able to take the ferry more often, school officials said.
Education officials are planning to advocate for the Alaska Marine Highway System to create a ferry schedule that allows Sitka students to leave on Thursdays for events and return on Sundays, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Thursday.
Sitka students take the ferry when possible, but the ferry's schedule doesn't always mesh with students' schedules, said Susan Ross, Sitka High School's activities director. The ferry operates more frequently in the summer.
"If the ferry will work, and by that I mean we're not missing two or more days of school, then we'll take the ferry whenever we can," Ross said. "But we didn't do that very much. The ferry schedule this year didn't really work for kids traveling on the weekend."
About two-thirds of the Sitka student body traveled off the island for an activity, like musical events, competitions or an away game, during the past school year, Ross said.
Student athletes take anywhere from two to seven trips per season depending on the sport. Athletes miss about one day of school for each trip if they're flying, she said. That number typically increases if they take the ferry.
Instead of the ferry, the district relies on Alaska Airlines to transport students. While the district receives a discount from the airline, Ross said flying can be double the cost of the ferry. A round trip to Juneau by ferry may cost $80 to $90 while plane travel may cost $150 to $200, she said.