Amid one of the largest outbreaks of the novel coronavirus Ketchikan has experienced during the pandemic, Ketchikan High School athletics is basically picking up where it left off last spring — and right now, that means full steam ahead.

As Kayhi began the 2021-22 school year this week, the volleyball, cross country, and swim and dive squads were already nearly a month into their preseason practice schedules.

Games and meets will start next weekend — Sept. 3-4 — with volleyball flying to Chugiak High School, cross country ferrying to Metlakatla High School, and swim and dive hosting its first meet of the season at the Gateway Aquatic Center.

But the difference between the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and this week, is the starting point — and how much Kayhi has learned in a year’s time.

“(Last year), we just went, and made it up on the fly, as a group — as a school, region, ASAA,” Kayhi Assistant Principal Cole Maxwell said Friday. “Everyone just completely spent last year adapting to new information. It seemed like every two weeks someone would think of something, and we’d have to have a conversation.

“And so starting this year,” he continued, “we’re starting where we left off last year, in the spring. ... It’s like, ‘OK, this is what we learned up to that point. And then how do we move forward?’

Looking ahead, the mitigation protocols for indoor activities will be in line with classroom activities — like drama, debate and forensics — with considerations given to the number of people in a room and mask wearing. Kayhi’s mitigation plan is based on the risk levels set by the Ketchikan School District each Friday, based on the number of active cases in the community at that time.

“We’re going forward with what we have, and at our current level — a high risk level — we don’t have spectators,” Maxwell said. “(That’s) a bummer, (but) part of me says the kids are still playing. And if what we’re doing is really about kids, than let’s figure out a way that they always get to play. And when it’s safe for us, we can come watch.”

Masks will be required by participants, but will not be required during competition.

For instance, the Kayhi swim and dive team will wear them around the pool deck at the Gateway Aquatic Center, but not while they’re in the pool, physically competing.

One stark difference between last year, and this season, is the openness to travel.

Whereas last year, the cross country and swim and dive squads competed virtually, this season there will participants from opposing schools racing alongside of them.

“One thing that happened from last year is that everyone was able, over the course of the year, to put together a plan that says, ‘OK, if we are traveling to a place that’s at a certain level, here’s our mitigation,” Maxwell said.

“Ours, which is still currently — it could change — but it’s currently that going to a high risk community, our teams don’t really go out in public,” he continued. “They go from the hotel to the event, back to the hotel, and then to the airport, and come home.”

Trips might not be as much fun, with downtime between games, but Kayhi will be able to compete.

“We’re going to attempt to (travel). That’s the plan going in,” Maxwell said. “… We’ll try to travel as often, and as much as we can.”

Traveling to Metlakatla will have its own set of stipulations. Participants must show proof of vaccination status to be allowed to compete on Annette Island, or set up a quarantine situation.

“Our cross country team, going over there — I can’t give out (the kids’ vaccination information),” Maxwell said. “So what we did is ask the parents of the cross country athletes, ‘We need permission from you, saying that you’ll allow your child to show their vaccination status.’

“And any parent that doesn’t want to do that, that’s completely within their right,” he continued. “You know, ‘No, I’m not going to let the health officials on Annette Island know my kid’s vaccination situation.’

“That is their right, but then (those specific students) just won’t (go on that trip).”

 Keeping everyone safe, while still competing, is a balancing act with the goal of a win-win situation.

Welcome to the 2021-22 high school athletic year.

“To keep them safe, and let them compete,” Maxwell said. “I think that’s the ultimate goal.”