Yaakoos still shopping for larger space

Twenty-five students are on a waiting list for alternative school

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

Juneau's alternative high school is looking for larger space so it can fit more students and employ a science teacher.

Yaakoosge Daakahidi's 95 students currently are offered only one science course, called wildlife topics, taught by a math teacher under a waiver from the Juneau School District, said Principal Laury Scandling.

Two school years from now, a federal requirement will kick in requiring all public school teachers to have a college degree in their subjects or pass a test in them.

Yaakoos now rents about 4,100 square feet of space on 12th Street near Glacier Avenue. Several of the classrooms don't have windows. Some teachers share classrooms. The rent is $60,000 a year. Other rental space might be twice that rate, Scandling said.

With the students and about 10 adults on site, "it's tight," Scandling said.

Last year, the school district offered to move the school into space at the Marie Drake annex to Juneau-Douglas High School. But most Yaakoos students didn't want to go to school so close to Juneau-Douglas High School, where they felt uncomfortable, they said at the time.

The space issue hasn't gone away. It's become more acute with requirements for using highly qualified teachers under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Twenty-five students are on a waiting list for Yaakoos, Scandling said.

"There's so many kids who just want to get out of the regular high school so bad," said Yaakoos student Lucinda Wright.

If there were space for them to enroll, the district's staffing formula would give the school an additional half-time teacher, who could be used for science, Scandling said. The school now has an English teacher, a social studies teacher, a math teacher, and a special education teacher who also teaches electives.

Yaakoos students must meet the same graduation requirements, including science credits, as JDHS students. In fact, they receive a JDHS degree. But Yaakoos students aren't allowed to take courses at the bigger school. And in any case, the two schools' schedules don't mesh.

Many Yaakoos students enroll as juniors or seniors and come to the school with some science credits, but others need science courses.

Not having a science teacher will be a serious barrier to allowing students to graduate, Scandling said.

Terry Baines said his son Christopher, a Yaakoos student, took a science course by correspondence and did well. But it requires discipline to take a course that way.

"You have to be self-driven to a certain extent, because there's no teacher standing over you to get it done," Terry Baines said.

Tatianna Sinnhuber, a junior in her first year at Yaakoos, said she's still catching up on credits in other subjects.

"At some point, I will need to work on the science," she said.

Lucinda Wright, a Yaakoos senior, said she has completed her science credits but would like the option of taking a science elective.

Schools Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the district, through Scandling, is looking into other rental space. The long-term solution may be space in a district building such as the current central office, the Drake building or the planned Dimond Park high school, she said.

If Yaakoos were placed in the Drake building or the Dimond Park school, the district would try to provide it with a sense of separation, Cowan said.

Meanwhile, the solution to not offering science courses at Yaakoos, even without adding to the staff, may be to hire a teacher who meets federal requirements in science and another subject, Cowan said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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