Ketchikan High School students, including former students, could benefit from news school district policies. (Image courtesy Ketchikan School District)

Students at Ketchikan High School and those who have dropped out could benefit from new school district policies on challenge courses and equivalency tests. (Image courtesy Ketchikan School District)

The Ketchikan School Board passed or advanced five new policies at its Wednesday night meeting.

The most discussed was a policy allowing students to challenge courses by taking examinations. Those who pass don’t have to take the class.

Student board representative Gerik Sherrill had his doubts.

“I know the intent is good, but it seems like we’re almost … pushing people through school, just to get the requirements to graduate. And I don’t want the schools to seem like a diploma factory. I want us to have the best education we can provide for these students,” he said.

Sherrill said he was not opposed to such challenges, if they just helped students meet prerequisites for more advanced courses.

But board member Kim Hodne advocated course challenges that help students catch up so they can graduate.

“If somehow a student’s life interferes with their education, this is a stopgap for dropping out. Anything we can do to save a student and get them to their diploma versus dropping out or losing anything, is what’s paramount in my opinion,” he said.

Other members said the policy could fill both needs. It passed with six members in favor and one, Matt Eisenhower, abstaining.

The superintendent will draw up the details. The policy includes a notice that National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, colleges do not count student-athlete credit-by-exam courses toward eligibility.

The school board also gave final approval to a policy on high school equivalency tests.

It says the district will encourage dropouts to prepare for and take a GED test. Such students would get a year of free study material and reimbursement for test fees for those who pass.

The board also voted to allow three other policies to advance to their final approval at another meeting. They covered emergencies, campus disturbances, bullying and harassment.

In other action, the School Board decided not to send anyone to a Capitol lobbying fly-in organized by the Association of Alaska School Boards. Members and the superintendent said it’s too early in the legislative session to make a difference.

Member Matt Eisenhower questioned the cost.

“I also think with the governor’s restriction on travel, our own district’s policy of restrictions on travel for teachers and others, it just seemed to me and I think others that we probably would be well served to show some leadership of shared sacrifice to say, ‘the squeeze on a visit with two members up there isn’t probably worth it,'” he said.

The board tabled the idea until later in the legislative session, when a lobbying trip might be more valuable.

Member Diane Gubatayao said the board should consider sending parents instead.

“I’ve gone in both roles, a school board member and a parent. And they listen much more to parents. It’s just a fact,” he said.

The School Board did OK out-of-state travel requests for Kayhi basketball and boys and girls soccer teams. The travel is paid for by fundraisers.