Local Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Fire destroys Juneau hangar office

JUNEAU - No one was injured in a fire that destroyed an office in a hangar at Juneau Airport early today.

Firefighters from Capital City Fire and Rescue put out the blaze, which started in the office at the Wingnut Aviation hangar around 1:24 a.m., within 20 minutes, said Capt. Lynn Ridle.

"Our guys did an outstanding job of locating the seat of the fire under some pretty tenuous circumstances," he said. "They had to go upstairs in the smoke and dark, and were able to locate things quickly and keep the fire from spreading to the rest of the hangar and the planes in it at the time."

About 16 department personnel and four vehicles were deployed to fight the fire.

Ridle said that, as far as he knew, no one was in the building at the time of the fire, and that someone nearby called the department. The office sustained an estimated $20,000 in damage and was considered totaled. The fire also caused some damage to the metal structure of the building and possibly the roof, Ridle said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Board grants teacher leave

JUNEAU - The Juneau School Board on Tuesday approved a year off for a teacher.

Sabatticals are unpaid time off during which teachers engage in advanced study. The school board may approve them at its discretion and set conditions.

The board on Tuesday granted a year off to elementary school teacher and literacy specialist Kathy Nielson. She said she intends to enroll in a Spanish-language institute in a Spanish-

speaking country. In a letter to the board, Nielson said she wants to learn about acquiring a second language because that's what some students in Juneau are doing when they learn English.

The School Board rejected by a 4-2 margin an amendment by Chuck Cohen that would have required Nielson to work for the school district for three years after returning from the sabbatical, or pay back the district for its costs while the teacher was away, such as health insurance premiums and retirement contributions.

Per the district's contract with teachers, it may pay insurance benefits to teachers on a sabbatical, but it must contribute its share to the retirement system.

Board President Mary Becker said the three-year requirement was "absolutely ridiculous," and that a teacher under those circumstances wouldn't be able to retire or leave if his or her spouse had to move, without bearing a penalty.

State law requires teachers to work for the granting school district for a year following a sabbatical, district officials said.

Board member Stan Ridgeway said he would ask the panel to reconsider its rejection last month of a sabbatical request from Juneau-Douglas High School Russian-language teacher Janna Lelchuk, who wanted to study in Russia.

Superintendent Gary Bader said he expected the issue to be considered on March 19.

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