The Ketchikan School Board Wednesday night approved in first reading a motion to recommend kindergarten as the minimum grade level for a student to be dropped off or picked up alone. The recommendation came after two votes and a lot of back and forth.
The issue was brought to the Board by the district’s school bus company, First Student. A representative of the company asked the Board to set a minimum age for students to be dropped off or picked up alone. The representative originally recommended third grade, but the transportation committee thought that wasn’t the right fit for Ketchikan. The administration agreed that kindergarten was an appropriate cut off, but that it should remain a recommendation not a rule.
School Board Member, Glenn Brown, who also is a bus driver, worried that a recommendation wouldn’t do enough and leave the tough decisions for the bus drivers. “We should be the ones setting that policy not a bus driver who is on a dark rainy highway.”
Several board members came to agree and David Timmerman proposed changing the language. He suggested, “The instead of recommended and kindergarten instead of first grade.”
Adam Thompson, who drafted the recommendation, said that if the Board wanted to amend, the whole thing would need to be changed, not two words. He also explained why the administration was hesitant to make a blanket rule. “What if that kid who is in Kindergarten has a ten-year-old brother or sister not a parent or guardian can you not drop them off? Or what if that kid’s said drop off point is 50 feet off of the bus stop, can that kid not walk 50 feet to that house?”
The Board tried to incorporate some flexibility, but ultimately decided to a take vote on the original language as a recommendation, not a rule. The resolution failed with a three-three vote, Ralph Beardsworth, Glenn Brown and Trevor Shaw voting no. The board was short one member due to the absence of Coleen Scanlon.
It wasn’t until the end of the meeting that Superintendent, Robert Boyle asked how the administration, which unanimously agreed on the recommended age of kindergarten, might change the policy. “The Board has the option to ask for reconsideration vote within a 24 hour period of time by the prevailing party in this case that would be the no vote, but short of that we would have to bring it back in a modified form so we are seeking some direction one way or the other.”
Ralph Beardsworth, who originally voted no, requested that the item be reconsidered and a second vote was called. This time the resolution passed four-two. Beardsworth said the issue is personal and the decision should be made by the parents. He changed his vote because he wanted to ensure the policy was approved as a recommendation and didn’t come back as a rule.
The motion on a recommended minimum age will come back to the School Board for a second reading at its next meeting.
In between the two votes, the Board discussed the updated budget and approved a new form for the school district to use in its budget submission to the Borough. The form was created by the two bodies in hopes of easing this year’s upcoming budget process and for many years to come. The Board also approved the resignation of Colleen Scanlon, and will be accepting applications to fill the seat until March 18th.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is March 11th.
This story has been edited to clarify that the recommended minimum age was approved in first reading, and will need a second vote before it’s adopted.