Searching through folders in storage rooms at the Juneau Community Charter School, Principal Caron Smith found documents dating back 10 years about the school looking to relocate.
Several opportunities over the years have fallen through, but not this time: the school has finally found a new home at Juneau-Douglas High School. Smith said the movers arrived Monday and the school finished up work Wednesday.
Smith said finding this new space for the school fulfills one of the goals set for her as principal.
“When I interviewed for the position of principal of the Charter School last summer, finding and facilitating a move to a new home was an expectation of the job,” Smith told the Empire via email.
Smith said the Academic Policy Committee or APC, the group designated to supervise the academic operation of the charter school, sent a formal notice to the City and Borough Planning Commission and the Juneau School District last spring about the need for a new location for the school. The notice cited the poor condition of the building that housed the school, and the safety of the school children, staff and families.
The school, located at 430 4th St. inside the Arctic Corp Building, has had problems with pipes leaking and plumbing overflowing. Smith said when she arrived at the school in August 2017, she walked through the building checking areas that were wet and filled with mold. Carpets were ripped up causing tripping hazards and the first floor girls bathroom was in a state of disrepair while in the middle of remodeling that started in May 2017.
In December, Smith said, a severe water leak led to even more issues.
“When we started moving cabinets and bookcases we found everything in that area covered in black mold and mushrooms were growing up through the carpets and into the wood,” Smith said. “The leak had clearly been going on for a long time.”
It was also in December that David Means, the district’s Director of Administrative Services, approached Smith about JDHS as a possible new site for the school. Smith said the school was in negotiations with an investment firm that was trying to purchase the Bill Ray Center. However, on Jan. 3, 2018 the school learned the deal had fallen through because the buyer had backed out completely.
In January, Smith met with Means and they walked through JDHS. Smith said the high school offers JCCS the space it needs to operate a safer environment that its old home. Smith said the school recently had been dealing with some security and safety issues that raised concerns for staff and parents. Just in the past school year, the school was placed in lockdown once and shelter-in-place three times. Shelter-in-place refers to a safety measure where people take refuge in an interior room with no or few windows.
Smith added that house across the street, the Barrett residence, also raised concerns for the school. Neighbors in the area have reported being concerned with noise many of them believe could be drug dealing and prostitution going on at the house. Police have also executed two search warrants at the residence in the past year and recently found stolen property there.
JCCS started moving this week and even got a welcoming from the Juneau football team. Smith said Coach Randy Quinto and 15 players worked for three days moving furniture and boxes out to the moving trucks to load.
“They have been amazing, and we cannot thank them enough,” Smith said. Smith noted the charter school will be making a donation to the football team as a “thank you.”
Quinto said the district contacted him about helping JCCS move. Because district sports teams are self-sustainable, receiving the donation will help offset costs for the players that contributed.
JCCS, which has a maximum enrollment of 110 students, will occupy JDHS’s first floor north wing area. JDHS Principal Paula Casperson said while the schools will have multi-use spaces to share, she does not foresee any issues.
“We are looking forward to the energy that younger students bring, and anticipate minimal impact as we adjust to the merge,” Casperson said in an email to the Empire.
Kristin Bartlett, JDS’s Chief of Staff, said the lease agreement is for $130,000 per year and that JCCS will have access to JDHS’s kitchen for food service, the gymnasium and the music/art rooms.
The amount, Smith said, is the same as the school’s current lease agreement. JCCS does have the option to end the deal after three years if a more suitable location becomes available. Smith said even with the minor concerns of sharing some spaces, the positives heavily outweigh the negatives.
“We believe that the wonderful, clean and dry spaces we are getting, which will be safe and secure for our students and staff, will offset the challenges,” Smith said. “We are looking for a home for JCCS where our students can thrive, and for now we are very excited and thankful to JDHS and JSD for this opportunity.”
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.