Winter games would close some local schools temporarily

Board supports games proposal; some members concerned about school closures

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

The Juneau School Board decided Tuesday night to send a letter to the city supporting Juneau's bid for the Arctic Winter Games, despite questions about how the district would handle required school closures.

Related Links:

• Arctic Winter Games 2002: www.awg.gl/

• Arctic Winter Games general site: www.arcticwintergames.org

"Conceptually, it is a good idea," said School Board member Alan Schorr. "Practically, I am wondering what the implications will be for thousands of students."

Juneau, Fairbanks, and Kenai are among the communities bidding to host the Arctic Winter Games in 2006. The games are expected to attract about 1,600 athletes, coaches and performers from Arctic areas to compete in 20 sports and traditional Native events.

According to Juneau's plan for the games, the athletes would be housed at an "athlete's village" at Harborview Elementary, the Marie Drake building and Juneau-Douglas High School. The schools would be closed to students for at least a week.

The board tentatively proposed that spring break could be scheduled to coincide with the games. Member Mary Becker said the closure could have an impact on the Gold Medal basketball tournament that traditionally is held during spring break at JDHS.

Schorr raised questions about scheduling issues.

"Our role as school board members is to try to do what's best for students. I want to make sure that there is not a downside for students in terms of Gold Medal, summer employment, and scheduling and calendar issues," Schorr said.

Becker said the international committee coming to inspect Juneau as a possible site for the games would arrive in January. She stressed that the use of the schools was written into the plan for the games already.

"I will be very concerned if we put out vibes to the community that we are not supporting this," Becker said.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler, who was present at the School Board meeting, encouraged the board to draft the support letter without any limitations. He said the decision of what town will host the games was a political one and Juneau was already the "underdog" because of its unpredictable weather.

"A support letter ideally would be kept simple," Wheeler said.

Board President Chuck Cohen expressed strong support for the games, saying the opportunities for cultural exchange would outweigh complications with the school schedule. Schorr, who raised the strongest questions about the school closures, relented. Other members indicated their support by nodding.

"Eh, write the letter," Schorr said.

Cohen asked Superintendent Gary Bader, who joined the meeting by teleconference, to draft the letter.

"It's already written," Bader said.

Assembly member Jim Powell, who is coordinating the game proposal for the city, could not be reached for comment today.

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.



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