By Melinda Munson

Skagway School held its first budget reading for fiscal year 2022-2023 at its regular board meeting on April 12. The Finance Committee recommended giving an additional $5,000 to seven high school extracurricular activities to cover discretionary travel expenses.

The extra funds would be good news for DDF Coach Kent Fielding, who in a letter for the April 6 Finance Committee meeting, requested that DDF be fully funded for 2022-2023. Two meets within the season at a cost of $5-6,000 were not covered. In addition, the DDF team generally qualifies for State and sometimes Nationals.

Fielding was able to attend the April 6 meeting, which was held at noon, by procuring a substitute. Mindy Miller, robotics co-coach, said she was unable to leave work for the finance meeting. Her team letter can be found here: Correspondence, or in the April 12 School Board Correspondence packet.

Fielding’s letter states “…fundraising is good for leadership; it is community building and it helps students take ownership on an activity, but students who are in both DDF and robotics  … are fundraising continuously, and I am not over-exaggerating. They have less free time than other students and become burned out on fundraising activities. They actually have said, ‘I’m burnt out’ to me, and I understand. I’m sometimes burnt out on fundraising.”

At the same meeting, student Adalia Deach made a case to have robotics better recognized by the school. The club, associated with the non-profit First Tech Challenge (FTC), currently receives no funding from the district.

In the Finance Committee’s minutes from April 6, it states the Finance Committee “agreed to talk about how to help fund or find a solution to support First Tech Challenge.” (No recordings are available for the school board or the finance committee meeting.)

The school’s proposed budget designates $53,408 for girls and boys basketball and $17,134 for DDF. View the draft budget here: April 12 2022.

In other business, the school board approved splitting the responsibilities and pay of the activities director three ways between Superintendent Josh Coughran, Business Manager Cindy O’Daniel and Administrative Assistant Kaylie Smith for the second time. Each activities co-director will receive $15,000. The school will save the cost of the benefits a full-time employee would have received.

Coughran said the position was advertised in 2020 when the activities director resigned, but no one applied. A search of the Skagway School Facebook page going back to January 2020 showed postings for multiple school positions, but none for an activities director. 

In a letter to the school board, Smith outlined how the shared model of responsibilities has been working.

“Each of us has vast experience, a passion for extracurricular activities and established relationships with other coaches and administrators in the region which is important since it is necessary to work cohesively with the region as a whole,” she said.

While the trio will share the position for the 2022-2023 year, it is likely this is the last time. The school board has discussed restructuring the job for the 2023-2024 academic year.

“I am excited about the possibility of once again having a full-time activities director on staff. We plan to use this year to secure the funding to make this a reality and to build the supports necessary to ensure success,” Coughran said.  

In other school news, universal masking was reinstated April 15. 

According to Coughran, since returning from spring break the school has been “made aware of nearly 20 cases among students and staff, roughly half of which have completed the isolation periods and are not symptomatic.”

“We’ve had a number of cases over the last couple of weeks. We’ve hit the threshold the school board set for universal masking,” Coughran said. The policy requires three cases of unknown origin within five days to trigger masking, regardless of vaccination status.

All visitors, students and staff must mask when inside the building and school vehicles. Students may remove masks at lunch and should maintain six feet of distance. Coughran will reassess the situation April 29.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for five days. Those deemed close contacts by the school will be contacted and can choose to quarantine for seven days or test each morning.

While the school deals with an uptick in cases, the superintendent remains positive. 

“We haven’t seen any serious illness,” Coughran said.