While it wasn’t on the agenda Wednesday, the Ketchikan School Board heard requests from two teachers to revisit the 2018-2019 school calendar.
The board voted on March 1 to adopt one of three calendar options, but with some modifications. That was after sending the original staff-recommended calendar back with directions to come up with options and collect public input.
The majority of people who provided that input preferred the original calendar – Option A. But the board decided to go with a modified Option B. In that option, classes start and end a week earlier.
Schoenbar Middle School teacher Frankie Urquhart questioned the board’s decision. She said a committee of school staff worked hard over several months to come up with Option A, which the public also seems to prefer.
“By taking elements from Calendar B and Calendar C, you have essentially created Calendar D, which was not given as an option for the public to give input on,” she said. “My response to that is: If 50 percent of the population chooses chocolate ice cream, 31 chooses vanilla and 19 chooses strawberry, the solution is not to mix strawberry and vanilla.”
Urquhart added that August is prime time for fishing, hunting and berry picking. She asked the board to reconsider the school calendar.
High school teacher Rick Collins also questioned the calendar choice. He said an earlier start date will seriously affect local businesses that rely on student employees. Collins said the students also will lose out on a week’s pay.
That can be a lot for kids who work in the fishing industry.
“My oldest son works on a seine boat. He might not have gotten that job had he been under this schedule. In fact, I would say probably not,” he said. “In the last week before school (last year), he had three openings with a huge percentage of his income that week. He showed up after lunch on the first day of school. He flew in from Craig that day, and missed an opening as it was.”
Collins said summertime income can be instrumental in a student’s ability to continue their education after high school. And, he said, just having a job is an important part of a young person’s overall education.
The board took no action on the calendar during Wednesday’s meeting.
There was some discussion about school safety. Lt. John Brown of the Alaska State Troopers and Ketchikan Police Chief Joe White spoke briefly about plans to review safety protocols at district buildings.
Board Member Glen Thompson asked them about the idea of arming teachers to protect schools from serious threats. Brown said that’s up to lawmakers. White said it’s something that would need careful consideration.
“I come from an education family. My dad taught. He was in education for over 30 years,” White said. “Educators are there to educate students. I think putting that extra responsibility on them would be a difficult choice and I don’t think all of them would be really wanting that responsibility, so that would be a real hard question for the district to look at. When you start looking at that kind of thing, there are a lot of components that come into play with that: ongoing training, extra budget items. There’s a lot that goes into that.”
Also Wednesday, Superintendent Robert Boyle told the board that contract negotiations with Ketchikan Education Association are continuing. Additional negotiation meetings are scheduled for March 22 and 23.