The Marie Drake building, between Juneau-Douglas High School and Harborview Elementary School, has been a workhorse for those two schools. But now some elementary parents and teachers are concerned about plans to use nearly all of it for high school classes.
The former middle school building houses classes from both adjoining schools, the Harborview library, the school district's Montessori program and one of its preschool programs.
But with JDHS classes set to take over nearly the entire building when high school renovations start next fall, the district is facing a space conundrum: Which, if any, elementary programs will have to leave the downtown location?
Several dozen parents, teachers, administrators and school board members gathered Thursday evening at Marie Drake to talk about how the district should reorganize the displaced classrooms and programs.
"There are so many pieces to this puzzle with 30 different ways to put things together," schools Superintendent Gary Bader said. "We need to try to strike the balance that meets the most needs of the most programs."
Options include reorganizing space at Harborview to fit the programs now in Marie Drake, moving administrative offices out of the Harborview basement to create more classroom space, or moving some programs and offices to Gastineau or Glacier Valley elementary schools.
The Juneau School Board also had discussed shifting elementary school boundaries to lower the number of students at Harborview. But Bader said Thursday that changing school boundaries is not likely to occur, given current enrollment projections.
"That is still on the table, but it's a remote possibility," he said.
A number of parents and teachers said they wanted to keep the school community of Harborview and the accompanying Marie Drake programs intact.
"One of the biggest concerns we have is breaking up the community," Montessori parent Maria Moya said. It took time to establish the Montessori program at Harborview, she said. "I would lament the loss and be somewhat apprehensive about starting from scratch again."
People also mentioned the diversity that the Marie Drake programs bring to Harborview.
"They're all like little jewels in the treasure box of Harborview," teacher Cherry Ecklund said. "I feel it's important to keep them all here."
Some Harborview teachers want to look at space usage in the Harborview building to see if adjustments could be made to allow all programs to stay.
"I think there's enough creativity on our staff that we can come up with ideas on how to utilize space," teacher Linda Frame said. "If we dust out the closets and really think about it, we can redo this building."
Further public comments should be sent to Harborview Principal Bob Dye by Nov. 6. Another meeting has been set for Nov. 13. Eventually, the School Board Facilities Committee will make a recommendation to the full board, which has the final say.
Whatever changes are made will be re-evaluated after the high school renovations are completed, Bader said.
"I think we have to take a look at the end of two years and see where we are," he said. "This isn't a decision forever."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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