Ketchikan High School (KRBD stock photo)

The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday night saw the return of Superintendent Beth Lougee after a three-month absence. In January, Lougee’s husband died from complications of COVID-19.  Shortly after returning to work following bereavement leave, she too suffered complications from the disease and was medevaced to Washington state for treatment.

During her report, Lougee says the district needs to focus on student achievement, recovery of learning lost due to the pandemic, adequate funding, and safe and healthy learning.

“We need to focus on where our students have ended the year to be able to assess appropriately what those needs are as we move into a summer school program, as well as addressing learning loss and how we help the students recover is not something that can be done short term. “

Lougee says principals will meet next week to discuss summer school and learning opportunities, and to develop a survey that will go out to parents and teachers. Lougee says they would like to establish a committee that includes educators, parents, students and school board representatives to devise a plan for summer school and beyond.

Lougee requested one item on the board’s agenda be removed — the purchase of a new language arts curriculum for Schoenbar Middle School, so that the school board curriculum committee could review and discuss the materials, per board policy. She says she’d also like to get more input from teachers, students and parents.

The board unanimously voted to remove this item from the agenda.

At the end of her report to the board, Lougee offered thanks during her absence.

“And I mean this from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank everybody for their support.  I want to thank everybody who stepped into their different roles as well as the school board. It made coming back pretty seamless and being able to step in and get back into a routine is nice. So I appreciate them.”

In new business, the board approved an amendment to the Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan to include $285,000 to replace the sound system in the Ketchikan High School Auditorium. Surplus bond funds from other district capital improvement projects will cover the expense.

The board also approved a $1.7 million, 5-year busing contract with First Student for next school year.

In addition, the board approved a retroactive $5,000 extra-duty contract for District Business Manager Katie Parrott for serving as acting superintendent during Lougee’s absence. School Board member Paul Robbins, Jr. informed the board that when the Finance Committee was discussing this, Parrott was against it, saying many people made completing the extra work possible. Board member Diane Gubatayao says Parrott took on two jobs and deserves to be compensated.

“And there are so many things that the public doesn’t know about, and rightfully so, that we know about as board members. She took on some serious actions and made decisions that were really critical. So I think this is a very well-deserved retroactive extra-duty amount.”

The motion passed 6-1 with board president Kim Hodne voting against, because he wanted to vote according to Parrott’s wish.

The board also held a discussion on the district’s Smart Start coronavirus mitigation plan. Lougee says new recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control, including a change in social distancing of students from 6 feet to 3 feet, and adjustment of risk levels, have not yet been discussed in committee.  She advises not making drastic changes now, given that the school year is ending.

No direction was given and no action taken regarding the Smart Start plan.

In other business, the board approved tenured teacher contracts for the upcoming school year.

In addition, the board also recognized the Kayhi basketball teams. The Lady Kings won the Region V. 4-A title. The Kings placed second to Juneau-Douglas High School at Regions, but will represent the region at state because Juneau does not allow its teams to travel to communities with a high COVID-19 risk. The tournament began  Thursday in Anchorage.

Superintendent Lougee also mentioned free, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination clinics for teens ages 16 and 17 will be held in the Kayhi Commons April 6th and 7th.