Local News

Goods news on school district budget, bad news on wellness grant

The Obesity Prevention Grant, which focuses on student wellness, will probably not be funded next year.

The Obesity Prevention Grant, which focuses on student wellness, will probably not be funded next year.

The Ketchikan School Board quickly approved grant applications and teacher contracts at its meeting Wednesday night. There was good news on the budget, but bad news about a wellness grant.

At past School Board meetings, there has been grief over potential budget cuts to programs like preschool and Shoenbar 1-to-1 digital learning. But because of state funding, things are looking up.

“The financial effort of the legislative session that’s directed to our district is more than we had anticipated,” Superintendent Robert Boyle said. “That’s good news.”

It means the school district budget for next year will probably be fully funded – meaning no cuts to ongoing programs. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has not finalized how much money it will give the School District yet. But Boyle was optimistic.

However, there is some bad news.

Even though the district hasn’t submitted the application yet, the Obesity Prevention Grant will most likely not be funded for next year. Business Manager Matt Groves said the Alaska Department of the Health and Social Services – which funds the grant – told him as much.

Lauren Kelsey, the DHSS Obesity Prevention School Grants Manager, confirmed this. She said Ketchikan was one of two school districts that received limited one-year funding. Kelsey said the state legislature did not approve additional funding for the grant program, so “at this point, there won’t be funding [for Ketchikan] next year.”

The Obesity Prevention Grant covers a school district wellness director position, an elementary PE teacher, a school cooking class, and extra fitness education. This year, the grant has allowed the district to focus more on student wellness.

The School Board has partially prepared for this possibility. The PE teacher position at Point Higgins Elementary is included in the budget, so that won’t be cut.

“But that does put Barbara’s position off the books,” Boyle said. “I mean we do not have that scheduled.”

Barbara McCarthy is the Wellness Director funded by this grant. The School Board is planning to talk about funding that position outside of the grant at the next meeting.

The School Board decided to postpone a vote on the updated Student Nutrition and Physical Activity policy until the next meeting. Student Board member Evan Wick has been hesitant about the policy, and he was not at the meeting. The Board members agreed they should wait until the next meeting so that he could have input.

The School Board quickly approved contracts for two big renovation projects at Ketchikan High School. One is to replace the lighting system in the Kayhi auditorium for about $350,000. The other is a $425,000 contract to renovate the school’s ventilation system.

The next School Board meeting is scheduled for May 28th.

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