Ketchikan High School students are travelers. They travel for sports, music, student government. Before now, volunteer chaperones did not have to go through any official screening before accompanying students on overnight trips. Starting this school year, that won’t be the case.
The Ketchikan School Board Wednesday night approved required background checks for volunteer chaperones on overnight school-sponsored trips. The policy recommendation came from the newly formed Student Safety Committee.
“I believe in having the safest environment for our students as we can and if this is just another tool for that, I’m in favor of it,” Board member Ralph Beardsworth said.
The entire board agreed that student safety is the main priority. But there were some questions.
“I’d like to know how we’re paying for it,” said Board member Colleen Scanlon. “And if it ain’t broke why change it? We’ve been doing school sponsored trips for a hundred years and have not required background checks and now all of a sudden we are?”
Superintendent Robert Boyle said the details of exactly how much the background checks will cost and what funds the district will use to pay for them are not certain. He said most of the chaperones on students trips are school employees, who have already gone through background checks. He guessed there might be around 30 or 40 volunteer chaperones each year who would need to be screened.
“The cost of the security check ranges to about $100 up to in the hundreds of dollars,” school district HR manager Rick Rafter said. “It all depends on how many last names they’ve had and how many places they’ve lived.”
One other question Scanlon posed: will background checks make it more difficult to get volunteers to chaperone school trips?
“If somebody doesn’t want to go on a trip because they’re worried or don’t want to take a background check, I don’t want that person traveling with at least my kid,” Timmerman said.
The rest of the Board agreed in the end. They unanimously voted to accept the policy update and decided to not bring it up for a second reading.
The Board also accepted two state-funded grants. The Digital Teaching Initiative Grant for more than $800,000 is meant to connect Ketchikan’s online classes with school districts on Prince of Wales Island and in Metlakatla. The Obesity Prevention and Control Grant of $150,000 funds more health-related positions for the district, including a PE teacher and wellness coordinator. Both of those grants are spread out over three years.
Three new school district staff introduced themselves at the meeting – Shannon Sines is the new curriculum director, her husband James Sines is assistant principal at Houghtaling Elementary School, and Ketchikan High School alum Adam Thompson is the business manager.
Also, three new teaching contracts were approved. Darby Mainardi at Point Higgins Elementary, Peter Stanton at KIC Tribal Scholars, and Elizabeth Hanson at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.
The next School Board meeting is scheduled for August 13th.