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Placement of White Cliff Students To Be Decided By School Board


June 09, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - Among the items the Ketchikan School Board will be asked to decide Wednesday evening is... not if, but where to move White Cliff Elementary school students. The 77 year-old White Cliff school facility no longer appears to be an option for housing students for the upcoming school year. Superintendent Harry Martin is asking the Ketchikan School Board Wednesday evening to decided on another facility option for placing the students and staff.

Reports previously presented to the Ketchikan School Board have noted in detail numerous fire and life safety concerns with the White Cliff facility which was build in 1927. Previously, a decision was made to replace the school with a completely new facility at a different location. The design for the new school facility is almost finished, with an expected completion date of August 2005. It was the intent of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District to use the White Cliff building for for one more school year before retiring the building. However, because of fire and life safety concerns, other facility options will need to be considered.

photo White Cliff Ketchikan, Alaska

Numerous fire and life safety concerns have been
identified in the White Cliff facility which was built in 1927...
file photo by Dick Kauffman

Background information provided by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District noted that the School Board had previously asked for a report on the condition of the White Cliff facility. The detailed report identified numerous fire and life safety concerns.

Shortly after, the Alaska National Insurance Company inspected various Borough facilities as part of an upcoming insurance renewal. According to information provided in the Superintendent's statement to the Board, this insurance inspection corroborated conditions found in the earlier report to the Board and resulted in the insurance company putting condition of repair on the White Cliff facility in order to insure it beginning July 01, 2004. The report identified the five most critical fire and life safety issues which included:

  • Asbestos pipe insulation identified - It was recommended that an independent engineering firm be contracted to test and certify that the building has been rendered asbestos free, and/or that asbestos no longer poses a hazard to the occupants of the building. The gymnasium floor tiles are also an asbestos concern, and these tiles should also be tested and removed if they contain asbestos.
  • The building's current configuration includes two open stairwells extending from the first to the third floor and exiting onto open corridors on each floor. In order to provide a smoke free path to exit along these primary exit routes, these stairwells should be enclosed by partitions with fire-rated self-closing doors in accordance with the NFPA 1010 Life Safety Code.
  • A variety of questionable electrical installations were noted
  • The vertical pipe chases in the building pose a serious fire hazard in that they would allow for the rapid spread of fire between the floors of the building.
  • The attic space should have curtain walls installed to reduce the potential for fire to spread rapidly in this area.

The fire marshal's office also visited the local school district to inspect school building for fire safety. His report also listed items that needed to be upgraded or fixed in order for school to begin in the White Cliff building for the 2004-2005 school year.

The Ketchikan Borough also brought in an electrical contractor from Anchorage to determine what was needed in order to have the White Cliff facility comply with the electrical code issues brought up the the Alaska National Insurance Company and to give an estimate on what it would cost to fix.

In a report presented to the School Board by the Superintendent dated May 20, 2004, it was noted that if the Ketchikan Gateway Borough is required to bring the entire school up to current NEC requirement, it would cost an estimated #304,000. Those upgrades do not include non-code essential items such as a clock system or an intercom system.

Quoting a written statement to the School Board by Superintendent Harry Martin dated June 9th, Martin said, "At the recent District/Borough facility meeting and at the last school board meetings, members of the Borough administration told us the costs would be prohibitive to fix White Cliff up for the upcoming school year. They also told us that if Borough were to decide to provide the money necessary for fixing White Cliff, there is no way it would be done by the time school starts. Plans would have to be drawn and approved; items would have to go out to bid; then construction would begin. This could not be done in the 60-day window which is now what is left for us. This means that staying in White Cliff school for next year is not an option."

Martin noted, with this in mind, options were given to the Board to begin discussion on where to move White Cliff at the last Board meeting. A Board work-session for the community to provide input into options was held on Wednesday, June 2nd. Martin stated, this meeting elicited some options from several groups. Two over-riding parameters were also given to base these options on: 1) Keep the school together as much as possible; 2) Do not displace any other school.

Superintendent Martin met with the administrative team last Thursday morning to go over the proposed options. The conclusion reached by the administrative team, according to Martin, was that functioning under the given parameters there was really only two ideas to look at: 1) Put White Cliff in a building large enough to hold their core (K-6) program; 2) Put White Cliff in several building close together to hold their Core (K-6) program.

Martin noted that use of the University's Robertson or Paul buildings for elementary students means moving desks and chairs into rooms to fit the elementary students and would make these rooms unusable for the college student. This would be displacing college students and so would not work within our parameters or theirs, stated Martin.

Dean Henrick, Barbara Roberts (White Cliff principal), and Superintendent Martin visited the Saxman Community Center Thursday afternoon. Martin noted that there is still much work to be done in this facility and it did not appear that it would be ready to use even if this option was approved by all parties involved. To make sure, Martin said Dean Henrick called Saxman Mayor Dan Williams and asked about the building. Mayor Williams told them that Saxman actually did have the money approved to finish this building and waiting on it to be released. According to Martin, they were going to be working on the building this summer, but Mayor Williams didn't see it completed before December. Martin noted, currently there is no electricity, no heat, and no interior walls.

Superintendent Martin reported that this leaves the district with two options: Recreation Center and modulars.

Martin said they are suggesting the plan presented by the White Cliff PTA be used as the option for the Recreation Center. This would move White Cliff into the Recreation Center for 9 months. This would mean the Recreation Center would have limited hours from 5am-8am and 4pm-10pm on weeknights and could be open all day on weekends and holidays. The students would be able to use the gym and outdoor play area and could also share the playgrounds with the Charter Schools.

According to Martin, the option for modulars is a little more open. He noted there may be more than one place to put these. Five double classroom modules would be needed to house a K-6 program. It has been suggested that they be put on the Fawn Mountain site, the upper parking lot at Point Higgins, the vacant lot across from the high school and the high school tennis courts, for example. Martin noted there could be other places in the community where modulars may be able to be placed.

Superintendent Martin is also recommending that the pre-schools and the 7th grades go to some other facility. 7th graders could go to Pt. Higgins which would mean the electives and music/PE could be easily shared as those schools currently share teachers for these classes now. Martin is recommending also that the second kindergarten class at White Cliff not be instituted this year and that the District waits until after moving into the new facility which will be located in the Fawn Mountain area. Martin is suggesting that the pre-school could go to the Pioneer Home and/or willing churches.

Superintendent Martin is recommending the Ketchikan School Board approve either option - the Recreation Center or modulars - with the preferred option being modulars.

The Ketchikan School Board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2004. The public meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers. Other items on the agenda include a motion to approve a budget transfer to cover increased telecommunications cost in the amount of $12,000 and a motion to reconsider an administrative contract for Rick Erdrich.



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