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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

The Ketchikan School District Needs to Stop Spending

By Megan Heaton


March 22, 2016
Tuesday PM

There have been some comments made at the Ketchikan Borough Assembly meetings recently about how great the schools in Ketchikan use to be. Mainly there was the hot lunch program and a school nurse.

I went to the same schools and I don't remember the schools being that great The reality of that time is this: Ketchikan had three elementary schools. Main and White Cliff schools and they were old and in poor repair. Houghtaling schools was the newer school at the time.

I remember in the 5th grade I was given a scrubbing pad and told to scrub my desk. The roof leaked during the weekend and all our desks had started to rust. I remember always being cold because of the single pane windows. The cold air would blow right through them. I also suffered a serious second degree burn on my leg from the classroom heaters at White Cliff. I don't remember having P.E. everyday and we did not have a P.E. teacher. A couple times during the week our teachers would take turns taking us to the lunchroom to play games.

At the high school level there was only one sports program for girls, basketball.

The pool had just been built and swim teams were just starting to compete. Before that Ketchikan kids had swim lessons at Bugges Beach, rain or shine.

Let's fast forward to today. Ketchikan has three new elementary schools: Point Higgins, Charter/Tongass, Fawn Mountain schools. Houghtaling has been remodeled. Schoenbar Junior High School was completely remodeled. Also each student is given a laptop computer to use during the year. Ketchikan High School was replaced with a brand new building, except the gym. There was even an extra gym built for the sports programs. The Revilla High School was built as an alternative school. When the new schools were built most were built without full size kitchens and that was a school district decision.

The pool has been replaced with a new recreation center.

The economy in the past was a lot better than it is today. The pulp mill and the spruce mill were operating full time. There were also logging camps that employed many people. The Alaska Marine Highway had started and was growing. The fishing industry was also doing well. The city and the borough had most of their offices int he downtown buildings. Today the pulp mill and the spruce mill are gone as well as the logging camps. The ferry system is under attack from the state. Have you ever noticed how many ships are tied up at the shipyard? Every year the state talks about reducing ferry service. The fishing industry is so regulated and the price of fish is low. The only industry left is tourism and that is only seasonal. There are no benefits or retirement. The pay is minimum wage. The shipyard that was built by the state is now run by Vigor. This company hires from out of state. Vigor also makes millions in profit and the shipyard still pays no property tax!

Ketchikan's middle income base is rapidly disappearing. Unless you work for the local, sate, or federal governments or the school district.

Ketchikan has a lot of debt to pay now. To name just a few: the hospital, library, recreation center, fire station, new docks and the list just keeps growing!

Ketchikan has taken excellent care of the students in this district. The teachers are paid well and they have a benefits package that the rest of us would love to have.

The school district's solution for the extra million they want this year, just raise the property tax! And what will it be next year, two million? Guess what! We don't have the money to pay more taxes!

I am tired of hearing how terrible we are for not giving everything we have to the school district. How about the teachers, what will they give up for the students? How about they pay part of their health insurance and what the district saves on that can go toward the students.

This town is in debt! The school district needs to cut back. This spend and tax is killing the base that pays most of the property tax. Raising the property is not the answer. Just like the rest of us have had to do, the school district needs to cut back the spending.

Megan Heaton
Ketchikan, Alaska

Received March 21, 2016 - Published March 22, 2016


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