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By NICK BOWMAN
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan School Board unanimously approved an agreement on Wednesday with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly splitting two bodies’ responsibilities for 23 capital improvement projects in the coming years.
The School Board will take responsibility for 18 projects that amount to $3.34 million and pertain to district buildings. Five projects, estimated to cost $3.5 million, will be the borough’s responsibility. Four are upgrades to district athletic fields and one is the $2.4 million demolition of the Mike Smithers Community Pool.
Ketchikan High School is slated to receive a $748,896 upgrade to its energy systems, the most expensive project at the school. At Fawn Mountain Elementary School, a changing and restroom facility will be built for the athletic field. The Valley Park building, which houses Ketchikan’s two charter schools, will receive a bus pullout costing $314,775.
Funding for the improvements will come from the borough’s $5.5 million bond sale, which was approved by voters in October.
During the Wednesday meeting, School Board Member Stephen Bradford wondered whether the load of capital projects would strain the district’s maintenance department, which had its budget cut for the 2013 fiscal year.
Schools Superintendent Robert Boyle said that in the past, the district hasn’t contracted managing maintenance projects to outside businesses, but it will do so this year to account for a smaller department within the district.
Boyle mentioned the recently completed Kayhi roof as a project that was completed using contractors as management.
Two staff contracts were unanimously approved on Wednesday — a support position for the district’s technology department and a teaching position funded by the Ketchikan Indian Community.
The technology support position will assist in maintenance of district databases and its website as well as train staff in their use. The position will cost the district $43,772 with salary and benefits. No one has yet been offered the position.
David Mitchel, the Kayhi girls soccer coach and district graduate, will teach at the KIC?Tribal Youth Center as part of the Tribal Scholars program, in which interested high-school students who are KIC?tribal members will receive core instruction in the mornings at KIC and then finish their school day at Kayhi.
School Board Member Misty Archibald said she was excited to see the results of the program that starts next semester. She said it will be "great for Native students."
A $54,410 Parents as Teachers grant award was approved unanimously by the School Board on Wednesday. The grant will pay to train early childhood teachers who work closely with parents, and focuses on the philosophy of working with parents how concepts can be used at the preschool level.
Eighteen people, including district staff and employees from Head Start, PeaceHealth Medical Center and Community Connections, are taking part in the training, which is currently taking place.
The School Board unanimously approved a revised physical education curriculum that requires students to take a one-semester physical education course coupled with a one-semester health course.
District Curriculum Director Linda Hardin delivered a report during the meeting on the district’s vocational education program. She said Ketchikan schools "have come a long way" from previous years, when vocational education classes were underfunded and acted as a catch-all for under-performing students.
"Career education is not for dummies," she said. "We’ve come a long way. Almost all of these programs have some component of technology."
More students are taking part than previously — she said 51 percent of district students are involved in at least one vocational course, which range from robotics to welding to carpentry.
Local businesses and organizations are assisting the district with instruction, Hardin said.
"The (Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association) has been very helpful in allowing our students to go on site," she said. "The shipyard is cooperative as well."
Hardin added that the Ketchikan Shipyard has in the past offered internships to district students that have led to full-time jobs, with some of the students still employed there.
School Board Member Ralph Beardsworth asked Hardin whether the district works with local unions as part of the vocational education program. The district doesn’t do much with unions, Hardin said, but it does educate students about union practices and commitments.
At the beginning of the meeting, Boyle recognized Julie Bennett, a teacher at Houghtaling Elementary School, who successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on a student choking on an orange peel.
Boyle jokingly thanked Bennett for keeping the district’s average daily membership, a measurement which determines funding from the state, stable.
The School Board meets next on Jan. 30, and has public meetings to discuss the 2014 fiscal year budget at the Kayhi library on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.