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Students and parents meet with TMHS staff

Posted: Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Juneau School District served pizza and ice cream to about 60 parents, students and educators Monday night at Riverbend Elementary School while they discussed the high school that will open this fall in the Mendenhall Valley.

The event was part of an effort by the Juneau School District to answer questions about Thunder Mountain High School's educational programs, as well as drum up support and interest for the $60 million school, which Superintendent Peggy Cowan said needs about 100 more students to enroll there next year.

But a large number of attendees were either students or parents of students who had already chosen to attend Thunder Mountain next year. They asked the school's incoming teachers questions about projected course offerings, student-to-teacher ratios and the small learning groups the school would offer.

Joe Ver, whose daughter Asia will be a freshman next year at TMHS, said he was glad fewer students wanted to enroll at the new school because it would translate to a lower student-to-teacher ratio for his daughter.

"It's almost like a private school," Ver said, adding that he thinks the school will be more popular once people can see it when construction on the building is complete.

Last month, most incoming high school students had to pick between TMHS and the district's current school, Juneau-Douglas High School downtown. Most students chose JDHS, leaving district officials the task of deciding how to fill classrooms next year at the new school.

District officials have said TMHS needs about 500 students so that the school can have enough teachers to offer a full range of courses. But only about 282 students voluntarily chose the school. To compensate, the district is proposing placing about 100 students who didn't make a school choice at TMHS. It also plans to place new students to the district at Thunder Mountain, as long as they don't live close to JDHS or in outlying areas far away from the Mendenhall Valley school.

Besides placing students, the district is also trying to persuade some students who chose JDHS to switch schools. In a newspaper advertisement last week, the district promoted Monday's event to students who had chosen JDHS, saying they could still change schools and "make history as a member of the first graduating class" of TMHS.

Parent Shareef Siddeek said he was glad his child was only in the seventh grade this year, so he would have a year to see how the new high school and its programs were working before choosing a high school.

"We have to wait and see," Siddeek said.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 at alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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