The Haines School Board talked about budget, an expansion to the 1-to-1 laptops for students program and Mosquito Lake School at its Tuesday meeting. Right now, it doesn’t look like there are enough students to reopen Mosquito Lake School. But the school board won’t make a decision for at least another month.
At the January School Board meeting, Mosquito Lake and highway residents asked the school board to help in their efforts to reopen the school.
Last year, enrollment at Mosquito Lake School dropped below 10 students, which disqualifies it from state funding. The school board decided to close the school.
The group Friends of Mosquito Lake School and Community Center are hoping to gather enough students to open it again. So far, seven have committed. Superintendent Ginger Jewell said a survey she posted on the school district website to gauge how many parents of school-age students were interested in the school received only one response so far – it was a “yes.”
Dana Hallett, a member of the Friends of Mosquito Lake School and Community Center group, said they have gotten six student commitments. Four live in Mosquito Lake, and two live in town. Hallett said there are some families who are still deciding. He asked the board for more time.
“Any decisions that would be made now regarding the opening or not opening of Mosquito Lake School would be premature at this time,” Hallett said. “There’s just an awful lot of information out there that the community needs to have. We continue to have conversations with parents and with anybody who will listen, including the State Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.”
But DEED might have some rules that will make gathering enough students more difficult. Jewell said a DEED employee told her only students in Mosquito Lake can attend the school, not town students. DEED did not respond to requests for clarification on that by deadline Wednesday. (Here’s the statute they referred KHNS to.)
Hallett said he had not heard of that rule before.
“We don’t have attendance boundaries here in this district,” he said. “The board policy says that it is the School Board’s responsibility to set those boundaries and so far the board has had the wisdom not to do that.”
School board student representative Christine Briggs volunteered to be a liaison to the Mosquito Lake group. If there are not enough students to reopen the school next year, the group hopes to find a way to open it as a community center.
The school board also looked at a revised version of this year’s budget. Student enrollment increased from 244 to 268, which will bring in an extra $220,000 in state funds. Business Manager Judy Ereksen said the added state funds will help pay for three and a half paraprofessional positions, a boost to Principle Cheryl Stickler’s salary, technology, and other smaller expenses.
The school board approved a $15,000 adjustment to Stickler’s salary. The raise will compensate her for extra hours she has worked throughout the school year.
Sticker talked at the beginning of the school board meeting about a possible expansion of the 1-to-1 technology program. Right now, all high school students are provided with a laptop to use in school. Jewell and Stickler hope to expand that program through the middle school.
“We’re not going to do it just to do it, we’re going to do it because there’s a reason to do it,” Stickler said. “We’re doing a great job here. It’s time to step up. It’s time to take that next step up. I believe we have the leadership in place to do that.”
A meeting in January with Apple representatives about using technology in education motivated this initiative. A strategic planning group made up of school staff and two school board members is working on moving the 1-to-1 expansion forward within the current budget constraints.
The next School Board meeting is March 3rd.