Mosquito Lake School was the main topic at the Haines School Board meeting Monday night. Upper Valley residents asked the school board to support their efforts to keep the building borough-owned so that it can eventually reopen as a school or community center.
Last year, the Haines School Board closed Mosquito Lake School after enrollment dropped to less than ten. To get state funding, a school needs at least ten children.
Upper Valley resident Jim Stanford said the school is more than a school. When it was open, it served the whole community as an activity center and meeting place for people who live from around 18 mile to the border.
“This is a facility that needs to be kept somehow,” Stanford said. “I urge this board to please urge the manager, David Sosa, to not sell this facility.”
Stanford and others at the meeting said they think the borough has moved too quickly to try to sell the school building, which is worth about $800,000. Now the property is on the planning commission’s Thursday meeting agenda, asking for approval to classify the property for sale.
Dana Hallett said they don’t know if there are enough students to re-open Mosquito Lake School next year. But he says getting rid of the property because there’s a lull in student numbers is irresponsible.
“What I would ask of school board is, is right now tonight, you can pass a resolution communicating with the planning commission to request that they do not place that piece of valuable property on the “for sale” list now,” Hallett said. “This is a little bit – well, not a little bit — this is extremely premature.”
After about 45 minutes of public comment about Mosquito Lake School, the board voted to send a letter to the planning commission requesting that they not place the school property up for sale over the next fiscal year.
Board members Mike Wilson and Tiffany DeWitt said they thought the decision to put the property up for sale was happening too fast. They asked, “What’s the rush?”
The school board also voted to send a survey to parents in the district asking if they might be willing to send their children to Mosquito Lake School.
Superintendent Ginger Jewell said the survey should help the board get an understanding of whether there might be enough students not just next year, but in the following years. And from a preliminary survey Friends of Mosquito Lake School conducted, it sounds like that could be the case.
Aimee Jacobsen says their survey of Mosquito Lake-area families found there were four children under age 3 whose parents are interested in sending them to Mosquito Lake School in the future. There are 11 preschool aged kids, 7 whose parents are interested in a preschool there. And 10 elementary-aged kids, three are definite “yes’s,” 7 are “maybes.”
After the Mosquito Lake School discussion, the school board quickly went through other business. They approved two new hires and the resignation of school counselor Lindsey Moore, tenured staff contracts and policy updates.
They also approved an additional para-professional position for the rest of the school year.