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Schoenbar & Fawn Mountain Key Issues
Discussed During Public Forum
by Sharon Lint


January 20, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Praying for an end to the last two years of academic upheaval, last night at 7 p.m., a small group of Ketchikan area residents gathered at the Ted Ferry Civic Center to discuss key issues that will come into play once the Schoenbar Middle School renovation and Fawn Mountain School construction finally come to an end. The School Board convened this meeting in order to allow residents to comment on currently considered options, offer alternative ideas for the Board's deliberation, and to agree to a consensus as to the best way to redistribute students into the two new buildings next year. This forum was meant only to be an energetic discussion and information-gathering assembly of Ketchikan parents, students, teachers, and concerned residents who chose to attend.

jpg Schoenbar

Schoenbar as it currently appears. Schoenbar is under renovation.
Photo by Chris Wilhelm

The two-hour session began and ended with comments by Board Member, Keith Smith. After opening the meeting by thanking the teachers and administrators of White Cliff and Schoenbar for their support and adaptability, and acknowledging the difficulties faced by the teachers, students and their parents throughout the transition period, Smith went on to outline the Board's best information as to when the schools might be ready and their relevant capacity.

Being careful to comment "of course, this is our best information to date and as we know, those things are always subject to change.", Smith told the assembly, "The projected completion date for Fawn Mountain is December 15th of this year and the capacity for Fawn Mountain will be roughly 315 students." He also related that "According to the Borough Manager they now feel that as of today that Schoenbar can be completed by May or June of this year." and went on to add, "the capacity [for Schoenbar] is 325 students and the average [grade] size district wide for one [grade] is around 150 students, so doing the math there, I think we need to start with the realistic sense that probably only two entire [grades] would fit in Schoenbar."

As questions arose regarding the discrepancy between this completion date for Schoenbar and the date printed in the morning newspaper, Smith admitted to those in attendance, "Yes. That is the estimate now from the subcontractors and contractorsit will be completed by May or June. Yeah. That changed from yesterday. I cannot tell you where those three months went. I can't tell you that. I'm not sure anyone in this room can tell you that."

Once the discrepancy was addressed, and with the capacity of each school known and cessation dates projected, small table groups began discussing the options outlined by the Schoenbar Middle School Survey sent in by District Staff. Several Board Members assisted these table discussions by being readily available to answer any questions as well as to encourage open discussion. The Student Options discussed during the forum and resulting votes were:

1. Replace 7th and 8th grade students in Schoenbar. 39 6
2. Populate Schoenbar with 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. 15 0
3. Install 6th and 7th grade students at Schoenbar, while leaving the 8th grade students at Kayhi 1 0
4. Move 7th grade students and White Cliff in Schoenbar, PK - 6, until Fawn Mountain is completed, while leaving the 8th grade students at Kayhi. 23 0
5. Allow White Cliff (PK-7) and Central Office to occupy Schoenbar until Fawn Mountain is completed, leaving 8th grade students at Kayhi, and the 7th grade students in elementary school sites. 3 0
6. Replace 7th and 8th grade students in Schoenbar, along with Central Office (for now). 5 0
7. Keep White Cliff together and move into new school as soon as possible - 6
8. 7, 8, 9th grades at Schoenbar with teams of teachers, increase Schoenbar and Kayhi to 7 periods/day. 0 0

The last half hour of the meeting was spent as a full body, hearing the conclusions and key concerns reached by each table. Although each table had different specific concerns regarding the issues at hand, the vote was unanimous in favor of returning 7th and 8th grade students to Schoenbar and leaving White Cliff together as a whole in Kayhi until their school is built.
In the final minutes, a general consensus was agreed upon which included all of the following:

1) The best course of action would be to return the 7th and 8th grade students to Schoenbar, leaving White Cliff together as a whole in Kayhi until Fawn Mountain is completed;
2) No 6th grade at Schoenbar;
3) A strong, positive principal for Schoenbar is needed for immediate hire to begin the difficult task of team-building;
4) Due to the smaller student count of White Cliff, Central Office might be better suited to offices at Fawn Mountain;
5) Should changes need to be made to the School Calendar to accommodate relocation into the new schools at moving time, those changes must be made across the board rather than specific to one school in order to insure consistency and to prevent confusion for all concerned, i.e., Fawn Mountain students to have whole month of December off for moving, but all other schools have usual Christmas Holiday session.
6) Good communication with parents of all students regarding these issues is imperative. Good parent involvement is needed for a smooth transition; and
7) Moving of Schoenbar and White Cliff will be a huge task and focus is needed on the fact that this is extra duty time: compensation, adequate maintenance and safety are all issues to be taken into consideration.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Board Member Keith Smith thanked all participants and ended by declaring, "I would like to say just as a School Board Member that I hope that we get to a clear idea of where we're going [by] the end of the school year." To which one parent was heard commenting under his breath, "Amen."



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