After reading all of the recent articles and letters it is safe to say we have a serious problem with our schools. Actually, there are many problems: overcrowding, teacher layoffs, buildings that need maintenance, charter school and alternative school cuts, dropout rates, curriculums we can't afford and, let's not forget, a lack of funds to pay for the buses that take the kids to school.
I support quality education and the dropout rate should be our biggest concern. In 2000 there were 98 dropouts and in 2003 there were 183. In 2000 the student population was 1,771 and in 2002 it was 1,711. I believe we are losing students because of the overcrowding, but more importantly because we have a system that isn't working as well as a lack of alternatives.
So I am offering a solution. In 1984 and prior to that the grade structure in Juneau was kindergarten to sixth grade; seventh to ninth; and 10th to 12th. I know because I was in the first class of freshman to enter Juneau-Douglas High School. I say let's go back to the older system. There are too many students at JDHS and there are not enough students in some of our elementary schools. There is even talk of closing Gastineau School and busing those students to other schools due to low enrollment. It would not hurt the sixth and ninth grades to spend one more year preparing for the next step. Maybe this extra year would help some of them be on more solid ground and hopefully lower our dropout rate.
This grade restructure would not only address the overcrowding issue now, but for years to come. There would be less competition and more opportunity for sports at the high school. I don't believe the community can financially support two full sports programs. In addition, I believe we need more alternative programs for our high school students, such as a vocational school. The alternative school and Choice programs are always full and when combined with the dropout rate tell me we need to have more options! We don't need another building that our school district cannot afford to maintain. I don't claim to have all of the answers, but believe the concerns being raised by myself and others are valid. I support the community in coming forward with realistic and workable solutions that support a decision that ensures quality education for years to come.
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