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1/16/2013
Board tackles improvements

By NICK BOWMAN

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan School Board will decide whether to accept responsibility for upcoming capital improvements to the school district at its 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.

The agreement suggested by Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst and Schools Superintendent Robert Boyle splits 23 projects amounting to $6.8 million almost evenly between the district and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Five of the projects, costing $3.5 million would be the borough’s responsibility. The district would take responsibility for 18 projects costing $3.34 million.

Most of the funding is concentrated at Ketchikan High School, approximately $2 million, and Fawn Mountain Elementary School, $2.3 million. Demolition of the Mike Smithers Community Pool is also on the list of projects and would cost $2.4 million. Improvements to Houghtaling Elementary School would cost $228,728.

The most expensive project proposed at Fawn Mountain is an $820,695 facility at the athletic field there, housing changing rooms and restrooms. The most expensive project at Kayhi is a combination of upgrades to the energy system costing $748,896.

Voters approved a $5.5-million bond sale to fund the capital improvements during the local election in October.

Also on Wednesday, a $54,410 grant for Integration of Parents as Teachers will come before the School Board. The grant would be used to further train teachers who work closely with parents and for early childhood education.

The district has 18 teachers participating in the five-day training, which focuses on the "philosophy and foundation of working with parents" and how concepts can be used in preschool, according to the district. Teachers from Holy Name Catholic School, Head Start, Community Connections and PeaceHealth employees also will participate.

Two employment contracts are up for consideration on Wednesday: A?Tribal Scholars position in concert with the Ketchikan Indian Community and a district technology support position.

David Mitchel, a district graduate and current Kayhi girls soccer coach, is the proposed Tribal Scholars teacher. The contract would be funded through KIC and Mitchel would work in its Youth Center.

An administrative assistant in the district IT?department would provide tech support to district staff and orient new employees to technology along with other duties, according to the district. The position would cost the district $43,772 annually, including salary and benefits.

The School Board will consider adopting a revised physical education curriculum at Wednesday’s meeting.

A new curriculum would include additional conditioning courses at the high school level, according to the district, and would require one semester physical education. The curriculum was last revised six years ago.

Revised music and art curricula recently were adopted by the School Board.

School Board members will discuss the analysis being performed of the district’s heating systems on Wednesday. They also will discuss budget work sessions and take citizen comments concerning the format of the School Board’s agendas.

The School Board will hold its first public meeting to discuss its fiscal year 2014 budget on Jan. 31 at the Kayhi library. A second meeting will take place on Feb. 2 at the same library.

Boyle will report on the district’s health insurance pool and make recommendations concerning the Indian Policy and Procedures Committee during the meeting.

The insurance pool, which within the last two years had a deficit of $1.8 million, has been climbing out of debt in recent months. Boyle said on Monday that the insurance pools deficit had reached $74,000, and that he expects it to be in the black by March.

Boyle increased the premiums of district staff in order to pay down the deficit. The pool is normally in the hands of the Ketchikan Education Association, but the agreement with the district requires that the pool be turned over to the superintendent’s control once it drops below $400,000 in funds,

"We had a run of bad luck," Boyle said of the deficit. "It was an odd spike in our insurance claims. I increased the premium charges, so between contributing more money to the bank and taking less out of it, it’s made a big difference."

Boyle said he hopes to change the threshold for when control of the pool transfers from the teachers’ union to the superintendent. He said it would make more sense to have a prorated threshold that adjusts with costs of health care and the size of the pool.

Members of the IPP Committee, which was created as a requirement for Federal Impact Aid, said in late 2012 that they wanted to continue to meet despite the district not being awarded any funding.

Impact Aid is granted to schools that have lost tax revenue because of federal lands within their district. The aid is often granted to districts with land owned by Indian tribes.

Boyle said that the district has only three students whose living arrangements are within Impact Aid standards — well short of the 600 the government requires to grant the funding.

"We expect to get nothing forever," Boyle said.

There will be time for public comment near the start of the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Assembly chambers.