School board calls for twice-weekly ferry

Reduced schedule would negatively impact activities and school lunches

From left: Superintendent Alex Russin and Peter Hoepfner at a special meeting of the Cordova School District Board of Education. (Aug. 27, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
From left: Superintendent Alex Russin and Peter Hoepfner at a special meeting of the Cordova School District Board of Education. (Aug. 27, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The Cordova School District Board of Education has passed a resolution calling for year-round twice-weekly ferry service. The resolution was passed unanimously at an Aug. 27 special meeting.

A draft schedule, since scrapped by the Department of Transportation, had proposed a seven-month gap in ferry service. However, a revised schedule has yet to be released.

Cordova students regularly use the ferry to travel to academic and athletic events in Anchorage. The cost of traveling by ferry can be as little as one-fifth as much as traveling by air, Superintendent Alex Russin said.

As well as limiting students’ academic opportunities, a reduction in ferry service could impact their access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The proposed seven-month ferry shutdown would have required Mt. Eccles Elementary School to reduce the availability of its salad bar to as little as one day per week, Russin said.

“Travel for our students provides enhanced learning opportunities in real-life contexts about the State of Alaska; engagement with others in culturally diverse settings; participation and competition in academic and athletic events held throughout the state; and the development of a strong foundation in permanent life-long skills such as teamwork, communication, relationship building, and leadership,” read the resolution in part.

Continually advocating for access to resources like a consistent ferry service has been a distraction from the work of designing curricula and training new teachers, school board president Barb Jewell said.

“In recent years, we’re having the same sorts of conversations around advocacy,” board member Peter Hoepfner said. “Having to advocate, year in, year out, for the same purpose gets tiring.”