The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday evening changed the Ketchikan School District's coronavirus mitigation plan to make masking optional for middle school and high school students and staff at the district's "Substantial" risk level, effective Dec. 6.

The change was approved 5-2, with Board Members Jordan Tabb and Keenan Sanderson voting against the motion.

Braxton Zink, the board's student member, also voted against the proposal, though his vote was ceremonial and did not count toward the passage of the change.

Under the district's current Start Strong mitigation plan, masking is required when the district is at a "High" and "Substantial" risk level, determined by the number of active coronavirus cases in the community. The district risk level is set to "High" when there are 50 or more active cases in the community and to "Substantial" when there are between 26 and 49 active cases.

The district risk level has been set to "High" all but two weeks of the 2021-22 school year.

Board Member Diane Gubatayao also moved to make masking optional for "strenuous activity and physical education." Her motion, as well as an amendment proposed by Sanderson, failed in 5-2 votes.

Wednesday's special meeting was one of its longest board meetings: beginning at 6 p.m., the board adjourned the meeting nine seconds after 10:30 p.m.

The board extended its meeting 30 minutes beyond its 10 p.m. deadline, and was poised to further extend the deadline beyond 10:30 p.m., a move that requires the board's unanimous consent, but Tabb voiced his opposition to extending the deadline a second time.

The board heard from state public health experts for the first hour of the special meeting, including Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink and Joe McLaughlin, the state Department of Health and Social Services' chief epidemiologist.

Even with no substantial breaks in the meeting, and with public comment strictly limited to 5 minutes per speaker, the board did not get a chance to enter a work session to discuss possible changes to the Start Strong plan until 9:23 p.m.

The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Further coverage of Wednesday's special meeting will be published in a future edition of the Daily News.