The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday approved all items on its agenda and voted to switch the district to a different school lunch program during its first regular meeting since district schools reopened this week for student orientation sessions.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Board Member Leslie Becker and Clerk-Treasurer Diane Gubatayao moved to publicly discuss contract negotiations for annexes to be used for off-site in-person learning, rather than conduct them in a private executive session. Becker said the contract information should be available to the public; the meeting agenda stated that the purpose of conducting the discussion in executive session is that the information in the discussion “would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the school district."
The rest of the board voted against the motion. Later, Becker and Gubatayao responded in kind by voting against the motion to enter executive session to discuss annex spaces.
After hearing the superintendent’s report, the board unanimously approved all three teaching contracts on its consent calendar. Rebecca Mike and Desirae Blake will begin teaching sixth grade and first grade respectively at Houghtaling Elementary School in the fall, while Michaela Leslie will begin work at the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences as a special education teacher.
Next, during the board’s discussion portion of the meeting, board members unanimously praised a Sept. 1 meeting government-to-government between the School Board and Ketchikan Indian Community.
“I have to say that it was one of the most delightful meetings I’ve attended in a long time,” Becker said. “They were lovely hosts and welcoming, great communication, and, as I said, because I’m leaving the board at the end of the month, but I did say that it was an honor to be there, and if I could be any contributing source or support to either party as that moves forward, it would be an honor to do that because I think this is a very important investment this community needs to engage in, and I continue to offer my commitment to that, because I think it was a real honor to be there and watch that. I really was very thankful to be included.”
Board Member Paul Robbins Jr. noted that KIC President Norman Skan was optimistic at the close of the meeting.
“Even though interactions with this School Board — not these people, but this organization — in the past were far less than admirable, based off of that meeting he had hope for our interactions in the future, and I think that was very important,” Robbins said. “I think that came from the fact that we established a mutual understanding throughout the night that our goals are exactly the same. There’s no… ‘You’ve got your goals and we’ve got our goals, and let’s see what we can compromise.’ There’s no compromise needed. Improving the education of the children in this school district is our job, and that’s what the KIC Council wants to do in conjunction with us.”
Board President Bridget Mattson said the board is tentatively set to meet with KIC members again at the beginning of December.
During a separate discussion item, Lougee said that students who report headaches without other COVID-19 symptoms when screened at building entrances will be allowed to attend classes in-person. Students still will be screened with travel and contact-related questions at entrances, though, and can still be instructed to attend classes remotely if they do not meet those requirements.
Near the conclusion of its meeting, the board entered an executive session to discuss annex contract negotiations, emerging about 20 minutes later with no actions taken. The board then entered a second executive session to discuss the board’s school lunch program, emerging at about 8:30 p.m. with a motion from Gubatayao to continue using the Summer School Lunch Program for the district in the 2020-21 school year, rather than switching to the National School Lunch Program that it had been planning to use.
Robbins provided some context during discussion of the motion.
“The program that we’re voting to approve is going to provide food to more students than the National School Lunch Program, which is the alternative option, and it was laid out to us by our business manager that this option would not have significant extra cost, even though it does provide more and it does expand the free lunch program,” Robbins explained. “It was very important to note that it does not add cost — in fact, it could help us recoup costs from past years’ expenses. And it’s also very important to note that as of right now, through the (U.S. Department of Agriculture), this is only approved through December, if the funds are there. So there’s a chance that it could end early, and the district is only going to be trying to support that for as long as that is federally supported or state-augmented. Just know that it could end early.”
The board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Board Member Jordan Tabb noted that students should be sure to apply for the program to take advantage of the free or reduced cost meals.
“It’s very important that documentation is done, those applications are done — it helps the district in a lot of ways,” Tabb said. “So please, please, pretty please, complete your applications for free and reduced school lunches. Please and thank you.”