The Ketchikan School Board approved new high school graduation requirements and was given information on a new policy regarding public health emergencies. 

Most of the discussion Wednesday night revolved around changes to high school graduation requirements. The proposal is to drop a mandatory year of history, though one semester of history would still be required.   

Objections were raised by the school board’s student representative Brendan Roof. He said at least 3.5 social studies credits should be required.

 “I still believe that having three to four years is important. Because I know over my observations with a current 6th period class in U.S. History, a strong majority of those kids dropped out.”

Board member Diane Gubatayao noted admission to some colleges requires four credits of social studies including a year of history. She suggested adding more diverse classes to encourage students to stick with the subject.

“And I believe they are working on developing some new curricula.”

Board member Sonya Skan suggested students be informed early in their high school career that if they want to go to certain colleges they need to have beyond the minimum requirement.

“I would hate to hear a student come before us and say, ‘I didn’t get a scholarship, I didn’t get this, because I did the requirements but they didn’t meet the standards.’”

The board voted 5 -2 in favor of the policy. Board members Sonya Skan and Leslie Becker voted against it.  

In addition to a change in the history requirement, the policy would add fine arts as classes that qualify as career and technical education programs.

Changes to the policy would go into effect for the 2021 graduating class.

In other news, concerns were raised as the Ketchikan school district does not have a policy regarding pandemic and epidemic emergencies.  Given concerns about the recent spread of coronavirus, the board brought the topic up for discussion.

Superintendent Beth Lougee gave information on a policy developed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. It outlines how the school district would prepare for a health emergency by coordinating with health authorities and stocking up on supplies like masks and gloves.

“Because we do want to be prepared, especially with the coronavirus. My understanding is the Ketchikan city and borough are also putting together a committee. They’re meeting to address the same time of situations because of the tourists.”

It would also allow the superintendent to authorize evacuations or lock downs. She recommended the board begin the process of formally adopting it. It will be brought back at the next regular meeting of the school board for a public hearing at the board’s March 11 meeting.

And finally, the board held three closed-door executive sessions. The first was to discuss a personnel issue, the second to discuss the superintendent-school board relationship, and the third to be briefed on upcoming negotiations with the teachers’ union.  No action was taken on any of these issues or additional information provided beyond what was listed in the agenda.