J.D. Hudson, left, wrestles with teammate Taylor Sutak during the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling practice at the Marie Drake gymnasium.

J.D. Hudson, left, wrestles with teammate Taylor Sutak during the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling practice at the Marie Drake gymnasium.

School Board: Plan is not to merge all high school activities

The Juneau School District’s goal is not to merge all activities between the two high schools, said Board of Education Vice President Andi Story at Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

“If you consolidate everyone, you would have less kids participating in activities,” she said. “The idea was in some of the activities where it was dwindling and not having the numbers, if we could consolidate some of those.”

The district recently announced merging a few sports and activities at its two traditional high schools under one roof next fall.

“We petitioned (the Alaska Schools Activities Association), which nobody had ever done before, for a one-year pilot program to combine four different activities: tennis, wrestling, DDF and dance, if we chose to,” Superintendent Mark Miller said at the meeting.

“Tennis is only at (Juneau-Douglas High School), so that’ll stay there. Most of the kids that wrestle are at Thunder Mountain High School, so that’ll be housed there. Most of the kids who do (drama, debate, forensics) are at TM so that’ll be housed there. And we’re hoping to find a dance instructor for TM and keep it going the way it is, but we’ll see how that goes,” he added.

[Some high school sports, activities may merge.]

The district recently posted the job opening for a dance coach at TMHS and it’ll run for a few weeks, Miller said during a break in the meeting.

“If we can’t find one, we’ll allow TM students be a part of JD’s dance program,” he said.

Choosing what activities to merge was “very strategic,” Miller said. The process went through the district’s activities advisory council.

While the district will be saving the funding for two or three coach stipends, Miller said the impetus to merge activities was only partly monetary.

“We didn’t have enough students in some of those programs to make them viable. We didn’t have enough wrestlers at a school to wrestle all the weight classes,” he said. “If a team came with all the weight classes from Ketchikan, some of the weight classes wouldn’t have anything to do except sit there and take a forfeit as they walked out on the mat, and that’s not good for anyone.”

The wrestling program at JDHS has gone from 26 participants in 2008 to 14 in 2014. TMHS’s program started with 25 in 2010 and was at 20 in 2013. Dance participant numbers at JDHS have stayed, on average, in the mid-20s between 2008 and 2014. TMHS’s dance team had eight members in 2010 and 14 in 2013. JDHS’s tennis program has fluctuated between 2008 and 2014 with a low participation of 31 to a high of 49. The district didn’t have activity figures from 2015, or any concrete participation numbers for DDF.

After the one-year waiver to merge certain activities, Miller said the district will evaluate to see if it worked.

“We can go back again and ask for a longer term waiver or we can say, ‘It was an interesting experiment, but we don’t think it flew.’ Or we can look at it and say, ‘Gee, it worked really well here, are there other sports where perhaps this would make sense?’ and open up that discussion,” Miller said.

He said there’s been no talk on what other activities could receive the same treatment in the future, but he said it likely won’t be any of the major sports like basketball or football.

“If you merged the two football programs, we can’t be in a league with Sitka and Ketchikan anymore because we’re double their size as a school, which means we’ll be flying to Anchorage every other week or flying Anchorage here. That has a travel dynamic that could wipe out any potential savings,” Miller said.

No one from the public commented on the issue of merging activities.

TMHS senior Kevin Allen, student school board representative, said he thinks students are “content” with it and characterized the process as “responsible merging.”

JDHS student school board representative Aidan Seid agreed and said, “JDHS is really supportive of this merging.”

In other business, the school board approved a new kindergarten through 12th grade social studies curriculum. The last time it was updated was in 2000. The new curriculum will eliminate high school honors courses in favor of AP courses.

The board also approved adopting an elementary standards-based report card and decided to continue holding regular school board meetings at TMHS.

Shortly before 10 p.m., the board went into executive session to discuss collective bargaining.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.

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