Following long discussions on both issues, the Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday agreed to hire a new teacher at Revilla Alternative School, but voted against hiring new paraprofessionals to help run district preschools, which have quite a few students on wait lists this year.
The board later agreed to bring the paraprofessionals vote back at a future meeting.
The Ketchikan School Board voted unanimously on Wednesday against hiring additional paraprofessionals after talking about various options for the district’s preschool program. Those options include capping enrollment, changing the schedule to two 2.5-hour classes rather than one four-hour session for each class, and hiring an additional preschool teacher.
Superintendent Robert Boyle said children on the wait lists were spread out among the different preschools, and it didn’t appear that hiring an additional teacher for a single extra preschool class would work.
He said there was enough space in existing preschools when district managers planned the program in August.
“Enrollment blossomed. And it’s continued to do so,” he said. “Now the classes are full and we’ve got waiting. We’ve got 15 at Point Higgins, with a waiting list of five students. It’s difficult to recommend hiring a teacher at Point Higgins for five students.”
Boyle said a split day could be possible, but he wanted to talk about it with other district managers before committing.
Special Education Director Dennis Clarkson expressed concern about changing the program now that school has begun.
“I personally like the idea of the morning and afternoon, but that didn’t happen and that’s fine. I can live with that. But to change now would not work,” he said. “We have IEPs already written. We have to list in the IEPs how much time they’re getting, both special ed and regular ed. So to change that would upset parents, not only IEP parents, but the universal parents that, they’ve already made arrangements for a four-hour day, and to change that to two and a half, we would upset parents drastically, and we would violate some IEPs already written.”
IEPs are individualized education plans, which are required for special education students.
Curriculum Director Linda Hardin added that it benefits some preschool students if they are in school long enough to participate in the district’s lunch program.
Board Member Stephen Bradford suggested an amendment to authorize hiring either a certified preschool teacher and one half-time paraprofessional, or three half-time paraprofessionals for the preschool program, providing leeway to the administration.
The amendment failed in a 3-3 tie vote. A motion must have at least four votes to pass. The main motion then failed unanimously. At the end of the meeting, the board agreed to reconsider it at the next meeting.
Also Wednesday, the board voted 4-2 to approve a new teacher at Revilla.
At a cost of about $80,000 a year, including benefits, the teacher will focus on English and social studies for secondary students, and will support online or homeschooled elementary students.
Revilla principals Bill Whicker and Kurt Lindemann gave a presentation before the vote. Whicker explained the program’s “blended” education program.
“Really, it’s kind of two-fold, because kids are blending schedules,” he said. “They’re blending schools, so they’re taking a combination of face-to-face at Kayhi, possibly the Revilla model, and online instruction. So that’s one facet of what blended means. The other blended means that really it’s flipping a classroom, which means students can receive instruction at any time, not just during a class period. They can go receive their instruction at home, and then come back and touch base with their teacher. … That’s a blended model, using technology.”
Board Member Sue Pickrell expressed concern that Revilla’s program might compete with Ketchikan High School. She asked whether adding to Revilla would affect funding or course offerings at Kayhi.
Whicker said it shouldn’t be a problem, and Revilla students often take classes at Kayhi, too.
“We have Kayhi kids taking our classes, but we also have our kids taking Kayhi classes, so as we blend schedules, kids who are on a Revilla roll, will go to Kayhi and take a class,” he said. “Maybe it’s a music class, or culinary arts is very popular, and possibly AP classes, but it is a two-way street.”
Pickrell and Board Member Roseanne Lynch voted against the additional Revilla teacher. Lynch said she has questions about the cost and without hard numbers in front of her, she couldn’t support the motion.
Boyle noted that if at least 175 students are enrolled at Revilla – which is a possibility this year – the school could count as an individual school in the state funding formula, which could mean up to $800,000 in additional revenue to the district.
Now, Revilla students are counted as Kayhi students for the purpose of state funding. The official student enrollment count takes place in October.
The next Ketchikan School Board meeting is Sept. 26.