A number of Skagwegians braved chilly weather and falling snow for the Station’s annual Turkey Trot, held Thanksgiving morning. PHOTO BY DAN FOX

Changes to winter ferry service

An upset to the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry service will have minimal impact on Skagway, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (ADOT&PF).

On Nov. 21, ADOT&PF announced that the MV Malaspina will be undergoing extended repairs – a development that will change winter ferry service for Southeast Alaska.

However, ADOT&PF Public Information Officer Aurah Landau said communities in the Northern Lynn Canal will only be marginally affected, with Skagway keeping all but one of its scheduled sailings each week.

“The Northern Lynn Canal communities are really not very much affected,” Landau said.

Southern Southeast Alaska will be more impacted by the development.

According to an ADOT&PF press release, the Malaspina went in for its regular overhaul and certification on Oct. 1, from which it was scheduled to return to service on Dec. 22.

During the overhaul, engineers determined that extensive steel replacement was needed and that both propeller hubs must also be repaired. Landau said the hubs needed to be manufactured and reinstalled.

Because shipyard space is limited and propeller hubs will take several months to complete, the vessel is now scheduled to return to service in late spring, the release states.

From Dec. 22 to Feb. 23, 2018, the Columbia and LeConte will cover for the Malaspina.

Most Southeast Alaska communities will receive winter ferry service once a week and service to Prince Rupert is canceled. At the end of February 2018, the Kennicott will return to service to cover for the Malaspina and full ferry service to Southeast Alaska and Prince Rupert will resume.

AMHS staff has notified affected passengers.

“We know this is a big impact to communities who rely on ferries for passenger travel and cargo shipments. We rescheduled service to maximize port calls with available vessels and to offer communities full service for spring events like Gold Medal,” Captain John Falvey, Alaska Marine Highway general manager said in the release. “We’re disappointed and trying to make the best of it for passengers.”

For passenger information, call the AMHS central reservations office at (907) 465-3941.

School makes final student tally for year

Skagway’s official student count for 2017 was clocked at 114.35, up approximately 1.3 students from last year’s figures. The decimal points in the numbers come from the way the count is taken over a four-week period.

“If you wonder where that .3 comes from, basically it’s the average,” Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran said at the Nov. 28 School Board meeting.

The high point of enrollment for the year was 127 students.

“That’s a pretty big number considering back in 2010, I believe our count was 58,” Coughran said. “Our population is certainly trending towards the positive.”

The preschool class this year is sizeable, over 30 students large, which aren’t factored into the tally of 114.35 students.

Of curious note, however, is a complete lack of kindergartners.

“We started the year with two, and they’ve both since moved,” Coughran said.

The first-grade class is sitting at twelve students. What this means for next year’s first-grade class remains to be seen.

New social studies curriculum at Skagway School

At its Nov. 28 meeting the Skagway School Board approved a new social studies curriculum, one that was constructed with the help of many from the school and community at large.

In April, Coughran said all the staff that teaches social studies – which includes the majority of the school’s teachers – were collected in one room, along with representatives from the Skagway Traditional Council, National Parks Service and local Skagway historians.

This group reviewed the K-12 draft of the social studies curriculum, providing feedback where necessary.

Coughran said when the school shifted to single grade classrooms, it presented the opportunity to really drill down and define the lessons taught to each grade.

“We went from Kindergarten all the way through 12th, and we went page-by-page through the curriculum, we got suggestions from that group,” Coughran said.

Focusing on the core ideas and information students should be learning helps the school in its pursuit of standards-based education.

“I think that’s at the core of everything that we do, is looking at those standards and defining to a really high level exactly what we want students to be able to know and do,” Coughran said. “And what those artifacts of learning look like, in terms of comprehension, demonstration of skill, and I think that goes across any content area.”

The school is going to be examining its math curriculum next, and potentially a music curriculum as well. Coughran said he hopes to follow the same process for those subjects as well.

“What do we want kindergartner to know, what do we want a first-grader to know, and what does that program look like?” Coughran said.

Using a system like this is important for setting up “continuity and strength” when it comes to the school’s future.

“In decades to come, there’s going to be new teachers, there’s going to be a new superintendent, but if we’ve got that really solid system of curriculum review, we’re focused on those standards, then Skagway will always have the best chance at being a high-achieving district, and we’ll always have a high-quality education system because we’ve got that bedrock in place,” Coughran said.