The Haines School Board is holding a workshop later this month to talk about the possibility of housing Chilkat Valley Preschool in the school building.
Last school year, then-superintendent Ginger Jewell drew up a tentative agreement with the preschool that was approved by the school board. It said the administration would work with the preschool to potentially house the early education non-profit in the Haines School building.
The preschool has been searching for a new home for a while, since they were given a deadline to move out of their borough-owned building. The borough assembly decided the building was too decrepit to maintain.
Jewell resigned as superintendent last year, and since then, Interim Superintendent Rich Carlson has looked into the preschool situation. Carlson says his impression is that Jewell did not do any research on what housing the preschool would mean. He says there are ‘unintended consequences’ to accepting that responsibility.
For one, district funding could be affected. Carlson says there is no way that moving the preschool into the building could happen with zero expense to the district. He says, according to the state, the district would still be responsible for custodial and maintenance services in the preschool area and the district would be at risk in the event of a lawsuit against the preschool.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, teachers said they have concerns. Three teachers said there already isn’t enough room in the school for K-12 students. Lilly Boron teaches in the high school.
“Any day of the week you’ll see teachers working with students in the halls because there is not a room, you’ll see teachers working in closets because the storage space is taken up,” Boron said. “So we don’t have room for the students we currently serve. Taking away another space within this building I think is ultimately going to bring harm and a negative impact on students.”
Boron and teacher Lisa Andriesen said staff did not have an opportunity last year give input in the preschool agreement. Andriesen read a statement from the Haines Education Association, the teachers’ union.
“We believe that moving the Chilkat Valley Preschool into the school will not provide a solution but introduce new problems for staff and students,” Andriesen said. “We ask you to consider all aspects of what a move might entail and preserve the quality of our environment so it remains a successful, nurturing place for all our students.”
Middle school teacher Pete Degan echoed Boron and Andriesen’s comments.
“The need for space to work is something that hits me every single day,” he said.
Degen said the current mission of the school district is to serve K-12 students. He told the school board, if you want to serve PreK-12, then you need to revisit your vision of the district.
Preschool board president Alissa Henry also spoke at the meeting. She said in a small community, people need to support each other.
“The preschool is coming into this completely open-minded,” Henry said. “We are not demanding anything. We just want to make it work. We don’t want to feel unwelcome. So I hope we can focus on how this could benefit the community.”
The school board listened the public comments but didn’t discuss the preschool at the meeting. Instead, they scheduled a workshop to talk the situation over on October 28th at 7 p.m.