Junior High Basketball season changed

The Skagway School Board has discussed and approved a change to the junior high basketball season. It now starts in January after winter break and will run to late march. A letter from the high school and junior high basketball coaches explained to the board that the old season conflicted with the FIRST LEGO League Robotics program, and that many students participate in both extracurriculars. Some eighth-graders also participate in volleyball, which also presents a conflict.

“We also find that other schools in the region tend to have their season during the winter rather than the fall,” the letter states. “This means it gives more opportunities for our teams to find tournaments that are a better fit for us.”  Practice would be in the morning, and eighth-graders would have the ability to do both high school and junior high basketball. The letter stated coaches would communicate with each other in the cases of conflicting tournament dates, to figure out where the eighth grade players are most needed.

School Board President John Hischer said he was glad the coaches were talking and coordinating with each other, but asked if the morning practices for junior high basketball would conflict with another activity: the Marathon Club.

Hischer encouraged the coaches to work around that, and said he was sure any conflicts could be solved.

“I think its cool that the kids would be able to do tournaments, I mean, I think that’s a really great opportunity for them,” Hischer said.

The season change was approved unanimously at the Sept. 25 board meeting.

First reading for distance education policy approved

A policy for financial responsibility on distance education courses has been approved on first reading by the Skagway School Board.

The protocols put in place by this make families financially responsible for any course taken over the summer, and for any personal preference elective that is not required to graduate.

“It seems like we’ve taken a lot of financial responsibility for some courses that people aren’t finishing, or that we had offered something comparable to it,” School Board President John Hischer said.

Superintended Dr. Josh Coughran said he is a big proponent of distance learning, and that students will need to be proficient in distance learning at the next levels of education.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who graduates from college now without at least taking one online course,” Coughran said. “And so I think its great practice for our kids to be able to do that.”

While he said the school should support that experience, “in our support we have basically opened it up to anything.”

“This lays some parameters around that,” Coughran said about the policy. “If you walk in and say, ‘I want to take Japanese animation because I think it looks cool,’ okay, let’s have a conversation about that, let’s talk about how that’s going to go as far as whose responsibility financially that is.

“This just, I think what it does, is it allows a framework for distance education.”

Coughran said the financial costs are “not insignificant,” and that the price tag for such courses are typically between $175-$350.

The first reading for the policy was approved unanimously.

Drug testing for athletics gets further discussion

Following talk about random drug testing for student athletes at the last School Board meeting, the school officials met again on Sept. 25 to continue discussion on the matter.  School Board President John Hischer said the policy committee has looked at the rules of several other Southeast Alaska school districts, and also has discussed “the road back” if a drug test should come back positive.

“How do we help that child with things, with not just punishment, there’s a way to help them through this and catch things early,” Hischer said. “That’s one of the main things, the benefits of it, is if there’s an issue you can catch it early and there’s early intervention for any type of drug use.”

One of the ideas for punishment discussed was a two-week suspension from activities for the first offense, with at least one game or competition missed.

“That’s kind of the thought, first offense, somebody made a mistake,” Hischer said.

Board Member Jaime Bricker said she appreciates the work that’s gone into the topic so far, but said it is important to note that a drug testing policy will be “a large issue in the community.”
“As far as I can tell, just from feeling people out, talking to parents and it’s incredible how some parents feel strongly that it should be in place and others feel completely opposite,” Bricker said. “That it’s their child and they should be making that decision. So I think maybe we find a way to roll this out to parents and let them know that we’re considering this and that we’d like to hear from them.”

At the board’s previous discussion on drug testing, the suggestion had been made to hold teachers and coaches to the same standard as student athletes, but Board Member Denise Sager said she feels the focus should be on the students.

“I think we realize it’s a problem amongst kids, and so I would like to keep the focus there,” Sager said.

Belisle, who was one of the proponents for testing teachers/coaches, said he wasn’t suggesting Skagway teachers are using, but that the concept was to set a standard.

Belisle also said he thinks the first offense should result in a 45-day suspension.

“If we’re educating these kids enough there shouldn’t be a ‘whoops, I screwed up,’” Belisle said. “They need to [be shown] there is repercussion to their actions, and I think that’s what’s going on nowadays, is kids have no repercussion to their actions.”

Sager pointed to the Ketchikan School District policy, which makes students do 20 hours of community service work on a first offense, and 40 hours on a second, saying she liked that idea.

Belisle said the subject would make for a huge community forum, and Hischer agreed, adding it wasn’t anything the school should rush into. He suggested making drug testing a focal point for the annual community forum in January, with a work session beforehand to get public input.

“I’m glad that we are revisiting this, I just really want to make sure that we push it out there and make sure that we’re getting input from all the parents,” Bricker said.

MOU for crossing guard discussed

A memorandum of understanding has been approved to formally employ a crossing guard outside of the Skagway School in the morning. The Traditional Council had been providing crossing guard service, but as of Sept.  28, the school took over the job.

“One of the things that we ran into with the implementation of this program is liability, and the type of insurance the Traditional Council carries doesn’t necessarily cover a crossing guard program,” Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran said. The school’s insurance, however, would cover such a program. The MOU lays out the deal: the Traditional Council will still be the funding source for the crossing guard, but the school will administrate the program, including managing payroll, schedules and staff.

“If they are classified as an employee of the district, then everyone is covered on the insurance,” Coughran said. The Traditional Council will provide $4,000 per year to the district to facilitate the program. School Board President John Hischer said the program makes parents feel safer when their kids are heading in and out of the building.

“It can get pretty crowded out there, especially when cars are parked in the streets and everything,” Hischer said.

Board Member Jaime Bricker said that State Street remains a concern for her, but added that “we’ll get there.”

Currently the crossing guard is at the intersection of 15th Avenue and Main Street. The MOU was approved unanimously.

-DF