Local News

Decision day for Sitka school district budget

Officials in the Sitka School District decide tonight what stays and what goes in the year ahead. The school board is trying to close a nearly $400,000 deficit, and it could make big cuts to get there.

Atop the list of potential cuts is the activities director at Sitka High School. That job is responsible for scheduling sports and student activities, coordinating travel, finding housing for visiting teams, and more.

“The assistant principal, the principal and the activities director at Sitka High work in very close concert in order to pull off all the activities that we have going on,” Sitka High principal PJ Ford Slack said. “It’s nonstop. It’s not just a position that gets to go away because it’s just a clerical position. It isn’t that anymore. It’s literally the glue that keeps all of this running for the kids at Sitka High.”

Ford Slack says she’s worried about where the job’s duties will fall if the position is eliminated. She says the plan right now is for the director of Community Schools to assume the responsibilities.

ssd cuts“My concern is, I just explained a very tight team — we communicate all the time. If that person already has a full-time job with Community Schools, I can see them being pulled in two different directions,” Ford Slack said. “That’s a very hard thing to do to someone.”

State lawmakers did not raise the per-student allocation for school districts, though they did include extra money for schools to address security concerns. The other possible source of additional money is the federal government.

LINK: See the school district’s budget numbers as they stand now.

The district gets money under a bill called the “Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act.” But school board President Lon Garrison said the law’s future — and the money that comes with it — is far from certain.

“That’s the big one that we just don’t know,” he said. “And given how flaky Congress seems to be these days, who knows what’s going to happen with that.”

Still, the measure does have some hope of passage. Its elimination would have a severe effect on communities much larger than Sitka throughout the western United States.

“The idea that nothing will comes through for Secure Rural Schools, given the impact it will have on Washington, Oregon and California, that will decimate entire counties,” Garrison said. “So the likelihood we might get something there might be better.”

The school board meets at 7 p.m. today inside the District Office, which is attached to the back of Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. It is expected to take public testimony before making decisions.

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