With an additional $280,000 in state funds, Skagway School is looking to expand its teaching staff by three.

After seeing enrollment in Skagway jump to 101 students, the state awarded the school $1,007,321. To determine how to use those funds, the school posted a community survey. Those results revealed a want for single grade classrooms in the elementary school, an enhanced music program, foreign language program, the creation of a gifted and talented program for accelerated learners, and an enhanced focus on college and career readiness.

And Skagway School listened.

[quote_right]“If you’ve got good programs in place, people will decide to stay,” he said.[/quote_right]

During a community forum on Jan. 19, Superintendent Josh Coughran announced plans to hire two full-time elementary certified teachers and a full-time certified teacher to create a program for accelerated learners and be responsible for the college and career preparedness program.

The funding will also accommodate an enhanced music and band program, and foreign language program, expanding both Jonathan Baldwin and Jeffrey Pring Hitt’s positions.

Both positions will be funded for the entirety of the school year, at 29.5 hours per week. The full time schedule will allow Baldwin and Hitt to work with elementary classes daily and facilitate credit bearing classes for junior high and high school students.

Should the staffing plan be approved by the board, the sixth grade classroom would be relocated to the secondary wing in order to accommodate new rooms.

If attendance should fall, a harmless provision will protect the school for three years, with funding falling by 75 percent in the first, 50 percent in the second and 25 percent in the third.

But Coughran said he expects it to stay over 100.

Regardless of the future, he wants to continue to better Skagway’s future.

“If you’ve got good programs in place, people will decide to stay,” he said.

The forum also covered the possibility of a new school calendar as a way to deal with student absences in the winter.

Coughran presented traditional and non-traditional options. The traditional posed a mid-May start to a mid-August dismissal, with two weeks and three days off at Christmas, with the possibility of extending into the first week of January, and one week off at Spring Break.

The non-traditional calendar offered an extended winter break, as approximately 30 percent of students leave for vacation.  But for many, a four-week hiatus was too much.

During a Jan. 26 School Board meeting, board member Cara Cosgrove advocated for the four-week break, saying it was important to cater to the 30 percent .

“I believe that a four week vacation will increase butts in seats and teacher to student instruction,” she said. “And if that is the case, I believe it increases academic excellence.”

But members Darren Belisle, Mark Smith and Mary Tidlow supported the more traditional schedule, saying four weeks was too long to be away from class.

Belisle said no matter how much time you give off, attendance will still go down due to vacations.

The board must approve both the calendar and the staffing plan before anything is put in place, but Coughran said they hope to hire three new teachers in April, giving enough time to find housing for all.

As for the calendar, the board has until June to decide.