Sitka’s Community Schools is open again, under the management of the non-profit Hames Center.

The Sitka School Board on Wednesday (8-7-19) approved a one-year contract with Hames, with the option to renew for four additional years.

The district will pay the Hames Center $25,000 a year in monthly installments.

The deal was well-received by school board members, including Amy Morrison — but she was concerned that if the district was forced to make staff cuts again next year, wouldn’t Community Schools be better off under city management?

“I personally would still like to see some discussions with the city, with Parks & Rec, to see if at some point it could be transferred to them to do this,” said Morrison.

Community Schools closed on July 1, when the previous contract expired. Matthew Turner had been managing the program for $75,000 a year for the last four years, but declined to take the same deal at only $25,000.

Superintendent Mary Wegner said that the Hames Center would not be disadvantaged by the lower fee.

“The Hames Center has that infrastructure they are able to do it in a way that makes sense,” said Wegner. “They already have insurance, they already have a staff that can take reservations, so it helps. It (the contract) helps them to be functional, but we will learn more, since Dawn will have to hire some staff.”

Wegner was referring to Dawn Johnson, the director of the Hames Center, who attended the meeting. Johnson told the board that Community Schools would be run out of the existing Hames Center office, and that after-school youth programs would be coordinated as usual, as well as adult sports leagues. Johnson added that the Hames Center would enter into a formal agreement with Youth Advocates of Sitka to operate some Community Schools programs, like Skate Night.