Student numbers are up this year in Petersburg schools and administrators report a smooth start to the school year. Petersburg’s school board heard updates from the school superintendent and staff at a meeting Tuesday.
Superintendent Lisa Stroh reported that enrollment is up 12 students from last year, nine in the elementary school and three in the upper grades. “That’s really good for our community that we’re holding strong with our enrollment and up just a little bit, so that’s great,” Stroh said.
The district had 430 students last year and expected enrollment to drop by six students this year. The student count is not yet official – that happens this fall. If it holds up, the increase would be only the third time in 16 years that annual enrollment has not dropped since a peak in student numbers.
In other news, Stroh reported on a change to grading in the high school for three advanced placement classes available to students in English, biology and Calculus. Those classes are graded on a five point weighted scale, instead of the 4.0 scale for other classes.
In the past, that weighted grade required students to score a three or higher on the AP exam at the end of the year. That’s not required this year. However, the district will not use the weighted grade for figuring out class honors like valedictorian and salutatorian. That had been the plan earlier this summer. However principal Rick Dormer said he heard a lot of feedback from students and parents on the issue this summer and in the end the timing was not right. “And our goal will continue to be to encourage kids taking the most rigorous schedule possible and we believe that includes advanced placement classes and really I put in here to mitigate the risk of taking a difficult class, because we’ve had several several several students in my short time here not take an advance placement class for fear of because I might get a B, I might get a C, it’s really hard and they’re really hard,” he explained.
Dormer said he hoped to have more of a discussion with parents and students about grading changes, and class honors in the future. And Stroh said the change would have to happen with a future incoming freshman class, but not this year. “Because I think that it is really important that as students start their freshman year and parents are working with the counselors and choosing classes for their kids, that they know that they are under this set of rules, this set of guidelines for those four years, and not change that in the middle,” she said.
One other difference this year, all high school juniors will be taking the SAT test with the state of Alaska paying for the exam. “We are allowed to offer the ACT, the SAT or the WorkKeys and all juniors need to take at least one of those,” Dormer said. “We obviously believe the SAT is a superior test so, we’re really going to push that. We’re not going to push it, we just going to say should we take it and the state’s paying for it. We do still offer the WorkKeys test as the state is required and if students wish to take that we’ll get some information out. It would be later in the school year. But anyway, that’s a change coming from the state and it’s exciting because it’s something we’ve been trying to do for a while.” Students in other grades can take the college placement exams on their own dime.
Also Tuesday, superintendent Stroh reported on efforts to review the district’s emergency preparedness plan. She said staff is reviewing the plan this week. “I think we’ve increased our scope of what we’re looking at in terms of emergency preparedness and really coordinating with the fire department, police department and looking at communications. That’s the big thing whenever there’s an emergency, do we know, are we able to communicate with the different agencies.” The district may hold a community meeting on responding to emergencies.