My Turn: Valley high school would benefit many

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2002

As a parent and coach in Sitka, I would like to voice my support for the joint school district-city planning teams recommendation to place building a new Valley high school above the JDHS renovation project. One educational research report after another has left little doubt that "super-size" high schools provide a far lower quality educational experience than their smaller counterparts, and the educational benefits that will be felt by youth in Juneau will certainly be greater than the costs involved.

Beyond the academic benefits involved, I would like to voice my opinion about the extra curricular benefits that will be realized by Juneau youth as well as other regional youth in building a second high school. I'm not sure if there is a large group of citizens in Juneau who have resisted a new high school in order to maintain Juneau's dominance in Region V athletics, yet I would hope that anyone who feels this way would reconsider.

JDHS' student population (1,637) not only far exceeds its Region V 4A competitors Sitka High (420) and Ketchikan High (655), but it would take the combined student populations of Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell High (152), Petersburg High (220), Haines High (177) and Pelican Schools (17) to match JDHS' population. This inequity does more than pose a competitive disadvantage for all other Region V schools who compete against JDHS; it severely limits the experiences that Juneau kids are able to leave school with. I can't image how many kids might fall by the wayside if the above listed schools were somehow magically lumped into one "super-high school." How many kids would never have the chance to be the lead in the play, start on the basketball team, have the chance to be "cool" or edit the school newspaper? How many kids at JDHS are missing out now?

A four-team 4A conference in Southeast would be ideal logistically, and would create a more level playing field for all the schools involved. As the Alaska Schools Activities Association prepares to create a new 5A large schools conference, Juneau sports, activities and boosters are at a crossroads: Move with the Anchorage schools that historically have expected their travel be paid for by their Southeastern hosts, or continue to play schools from your own region who will be happy to pay their own way to play their two neighbor schools to the north.

Student activities make a difference in the lives of kids, and there is data that supports that kids who get involved in activities have higher grades and higher rates of graduation. I hope that sooner than later, a new set of Juneau kids will have the opportunity to be bigger fish in a smaller pond. Please support the new high school at Dimond Park.

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