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White Cliff Options Discussed
by Chris Wilhelm


June 03, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - Parents of White Cliff students, teachers, and elected officials met Wednesday night at the Ketchikan High School library to discuss options for the 2004-05 school year for White Cliff Elementary School. All and any options were up for discussion as nearly 100 people broke up into discussion groups. A list of five possible solutions was used by workshop participants to narrow the field.

1. Stay at White Cliff one more year
2. White Cliff moves to the Recreation Center and Valley Park
3. Rent space in the private sector, use of university and other non-school district buildings
4. Rent the Ted Ferry Civic Center
5. Portables at the Fawn Mountain School site

photo White Cliff  Ketchikan, Alaska

White Cliff Elementary School
file photo by Dick Kauffman ©

While one group strongly advocated the use of White Cliff one more year, Borough Assembly member George Tipton quite frankly instructed the audience that seeking alternative insurance which could allow use of the building was not the issue. The state fire marshall has determined the building to be unsafe. The list of repairs to the building begin with over $300,000 to upgrade the electrical. Other changes include installing heat and smoke barriers, closing utility chases in the walls, and revamping the sprinkler and alarm systems. These costs make the use of the building in 2004/05 unlikely.

KGB Public Works Director Dick Kraft stated at the last assembly meeting that even if directed to begin these upgrades they could not be completed by September, 2004 in time for the school year.

Sue Doherty called for a specific accounting of each upgrade, to determine why it would be so cost-prohibitive. Ketchikan School District Superintendent Harry Martin related the expense of the electrical upgrade for starters.

Once the White Cliff building is vacated by the borough school district, it reverts to ownership by the City of Ketchikan. Mayor Bob Weinstein took questions on behalf of the city, indicating that borough repair of the city's building could possibly receive assistance from the city.

Renting space in the private sector was not considered viable by most, due to separation of children from playgrounds, cafeterias, library facilities, and each other.

Renting the city-owned Ted Ferry Civic Center was considered unlikely due to the high rent charged for the facility by the City of Ketchikan.

Finally, the use of portables at the Fawn Mountain site was popular. Due to the lack of playground equipment, a lack of water, electricity, and toilet facilities, however, when added to the high cost of temporary portable classrooms, the option was less than promising. Also, having schoolchildren occupy a working construction site was thought hazardous.

Joe Williams, a representative of the City of Saxman, spoke for a discussion on the use of the Community Hall at Saxman. While money is in place to complete the stage for visitor industry use of the second floor already, the main floor of the building is incomplete and might be available. Unfinished plans necessary to make the building usable include the installation of a gym floor, installation of a heating system, and plumbing and electrical systems completion. The large parking lot adjacent could become a playground, Williams indicated. Power, water, and sewer are available at the site.

It was fairly unanimous for not using the White Cliff building, not moving Central Office to the Masonic Temple, not distributing White Cliff students to Point Higgins/Houghtaling, not moving Revilla students out to the Robertson building, not displacing the charter schools, and not double shifting at Ketchikan High School.

That leaves the possibility that the Recreation Center might be used for housing several classes. Valley Parks former pool area could be converted into classrooms. With the relocation of SPED preschool classes and possibly White Cliff kindergarten to a church building or even Point Higgins school, the eventuality of closing White Cliff school seems to be at hand.

The meeting lasted about two hours. One Ketchikan High School teacher voiced the thoughts of many at the workshop when she encouraged the school board in making their decision to honor the results of the workshop and employ the suggestions provided by participants.



Note: White Cliff options will be discussed further by the Ketchikan School Board and the Ketchikan Borough Assembly during public meetings in June.

Chris Wilhelm ©2004

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