The Sitka Assembly has raised their annual contribution to the Sitka School District, with 91% funding to the cap. The district is contemplating eliminating three non-tenured teaching positions. (KCAW photo)

The Sitka Assembly is funding the Sitka School District to 91% of the cap. They made that decision unanimously during a special budget meeting Wednesday night (05-02-18). This is the highest local contribution to instructional funding Sitka’s schools have seen in the past seven years.

The total amount of money being given to schools amounts to a promised $7.4 million dollars, about $245,000 of that coming from the federal government’s secure rural schools program.

How will the district use that money?

Some for maintenance and some for non-instructional funding, which includes the Blatchley pool, the Community Schools program, and support for student travel for co-curricular activities, as well as the Performing Arts Center.

While the Sitka School Board has budgeted money for these programs – about $433,000 – they have also directed Superintendent Mary Wegner to explore future funding strategies this fall.

“The board has tasked me with having a stakeholder community involvement process to talk about what could happen with Community Schools differently,” Wegner said in a phone interview with KCAW. She added, “We don’t have plans to move the Blatchley Pool just to instructional use and closing it off to user groups. But we also don’t know what the impact of the Mt. Edgecumbe Aquatic Center is going to be and if there’s still going to be a need for community groups to have access to the Blatchley pool. So we’ll be watching that carefully,” Wegner said.

As for non-tenured teaching positions, Wegner said the district is still eliminating two jobs, and a possible third. “Two of those positions are due to low enrollment and schedule changes that we can make without negatively impacting our instructional program: one at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and one at Sitka High School. The third position is at Blatchley Middle School. That is what the board approved in their budget,” Wegner said.

But, she added, that could change depending on the Base Student Allocation funding, which is up to the legislature.

With state funding still up in the air, Wegner said she’s appreciative of the Assembly’s “due diligence” and support for Sitka’s schools. Business Manager Cassee Olin also noticed the heightened contribution from local government.

“This is the first year we’re laying off parts of our non-tenured staff. This is not something anyone wants to do and I think we feel a need to keep our quality education in Sitka,” Olin said.

The Assembly will have their first reading of their budget ordinance at their next Assembly meeting on May 8th.