My Turn: Valley needs a high school

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

Juneau needs a second high school in the Mendenhall Valley. My two boys attended and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 2000 and 2002. I have been in the building many times and have observed that small-sized teenagers have an easier time threading their ways through the halls and fitting into small desks in crowded rooms than those who are tall and wide shouldered and, well, big. I can imagine that girls would find it difficult in other ways.

With greater ethnic diversity than ever before, personal space is even more of an issue. Last year, many fires were started at JDHS by unknown vandals and there have been bomb threats, as well. Would all the students be able to evacuate through the packed halls if one of those fires spread or had an explosion with it? Ask yourself if your child or grandchild would make it.

One of the criticisms of a new high school is that its population projection was off. Do we know why? Juneau's population isn't going down. A month or so ago, I attended the 2004 graduation ceremonies. I noted that out of a beginning class of approximately 550, only 350 graduated. Where did those other students go? Did they all drop out? Was there space for them? Where would we put them if they came back? Assuming 100 to 200 students quit attending school from each class (as statistics indicate) means that 400 to 800 kids are not attending in any one year. If these students were to be counted, there would be well over 2,000 kids at JDHS now!

Along with my concerns about existing student body size and safety is the alarming thought that the dropout rate could actually be increasing and that isn't being taken into account. One factor among the reasons kids drop out could be that that is a way of adjusting to the size of their school.

Lastly, I invite anyone who hasn't driven out the road recently, to do so. Go at least as far as Eagle Beach (on the way to the Kensington Mine), which now has a public campground, paved parking and walks; a new stretch of highway just before Lena Loop is flanked on both sides by two new baseball fields and a Frisbee golf course; a new road down the middle of Point Lena and past many home lots takes one to the NOAA facility that is being built where a quarry used to be.

Just north of the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal, Glacier Seafoods is building a fish processing facility and I have heard they will hire packers next year to bring fish to the facility. The University of Alaska Southeast is ever-expanding its programs and buildings, and has more students every year.

These are some of the many changes taking place in Juneau where state government has been getting slashed for the last 10 years. Couple that with the fact that Juneau's population was 18,000 when I arrived in 1970 and now it's 33,000. It has grown by 15,000 in 34 years or on an average of 441.17 people per year. That's impressive! In conclusion, I believe we need more school room and we need it out where there's room and need for it - in the Valley.

• Ann Krekelberg is a Juneau resident.

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