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Board will reconsider school's move

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Juneau School Board will revisit its decision to move the alternative high school to the basement of Harborview Elementary School.

The board decided to reconsider the decision because some parents are concerned about mixing high-school and elementary-school students.

The School Board, which met Tuesday, referred the issue to its Facilities Committee. The group, which next meets at 1:30 p.m. April 20, will review a recent study of space at Harborview and the adjacent Marie Drake building.

The district had decided in early March to move the roughly 90-student Yaakoosge Daakahidi from its leased quarters on 12th Street to nearby Harborview to save about $75,000 in rent. Some district administrative offices in the Harborview basement would move to Marie Drake.

The district originally proposed moving "Yaakoos" itself to Marie Drake, which is used for some classes and programs by the adjacent 1,600-student Juneau-Douglas High School. But Yaakoos staff and students were concerned that over time the small school would lose its separate identity in Marie Drake.

Since then, parents and staff at Harborview have said they were left out of the decision. Mike Ford, a Harborview parent and site council member, asked the School Board last month to revisit the issue and give parents an opportunity to comment.

"I just think that because of the structure we're talking about, that mingling high school kids and elementary kids is not a good idea," Ford said in an interview Tuesday.

The outside door that would be used by Yaakoos students at Marie Drake "puts them in the middle of a lot of kindergartners to sixth-graders," Ford said.

JDHS students and Harborview students already mix in the hallways of Marie Drake because it houses the Harborview library.

"It's been actually pretty smooth," Harborview Principal Kathi Yanamura said in an interview. "I'd say by far most of the interactions have been very positive."

The Facilities Committee will review a variety of options, Superintendent Peggy Cowan told the School Board on Tuesday.

"A number of them coalesce into making Harborview an elementary school and (making) Marie Drake an administrative and secondary school, but there are other options out there for consideration," she said.

Other options include leaving Yaakoos where it is or renting other space, Cowan said.

Yanamura said the Harborview staff has been concerned about Yaakoos moving to the Harborview basement because it would use space that the elementary school might need for other programs.

"It's a great concern to teachers," she said. "We're concerned about the expansion of a couple of our programs and whether that's going to be able to happen or not."

The Harborview preschool program is in cramped space, and the basement also could be used for occupational and physical therapy, Indian Studies and an expanded Tlingit-oriented program, Yanamura said.

Yaakoos Principal Ronalda Cadiente said the school's preference is still the Harborview basement. If the school moved to Marie Drake, she would like to see it separated from JDHS classrooms by other rooms such as offices, she said.

Cadiente acknowledged that Marie Drake would have good-sized classrooms. Yaakoos' current space is cramped, and some classrooms are windowless.

"The real, true desire for staff is to have some reasonable classroom space," she said.

Yaakoos teacher Amy Kesten said she wasn't sure which is the best location for the school, but she was concerned that a string of classrooms at Marie Drake wouldn't have the feel of a community.

"Being a separate program has really worked for us," she told the School Board. "We've been really successful. Our students feel safe and comfortable."

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



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