Juneau needed school years ago

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Many of the residents of Juneau's neighboring communities have been watching with great interest the struggles you are going through to build a new Valley high school.

I had the honor of being involved in the peer review of the new high school in late March of 2003, assisting the district and city and borough refine and complete the design of the high school project. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the new building, the excellent site and the care that had gone into making this an important new addition to your school programs.

I have lived in Ketchikan, Craig and Sitka for the past 24 years, employed as a school principal and superintendent during all but the last three years. Consequently, I have spent a lot of time in Juneau, attending various student events like music and basketball. My first visit to Juneau-Douglas High School was when there was an open courtyard where the present-day commons is now located, giving you some idea about how long I've been around.

In the early- and mid-1980s, most of us out-of-towners wondered out loud when it would be that Juneau would finally build a second high school, since the building was grossly overcrowded 15 and 20 years ago. For anyone to now say that because of a minor fluctuation in student population that you no longer need a new school is absurd in the extreme.

You needed this facility long ago, and your students have grown up and attended school in a facility that has often been a second-rate experience, only because of the crowded conditions. I personally know of parents who exercised other options for their children, sending them to Mt. Edgecumbe, or out-of-state, because they just didn't feel good about having their kids crammed into the school.

Please consider carefully your decision about potentially canceling this project. You have a huge financial and emotional investment in this project, all of which will be lost. You will miss the opportunity to have the state pick up the lion's share of the costs, and most of all, your children will have less than the excellent high school experience they deserve.

I urge you, from my vantage point in Sitka, to recognize what we see: the wonderful opportunity you have to make Juneau a better place to raise and educate your children. To do otherwise will be a giant mistake, one that your community will pay for dearly sometime in the near future, when common sense prevails.

John Holst


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