The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

School board works to highlight students’ voices

Within the first hour of the meeting students would have up to five minutes each to address the board about any issue

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education gave initial approval Monday to a policy change aimed at prioritizing student comments during its monthly board meetings. Under the change, within the first hour of the meeting students would have up to five minutes each to address the board about any issue.

Currently, students are able to offer public comments during the board’s designated time for public comments, when people testifying are limited to three minutes each for an aggregate of 20 minutes. The new policy would designate a section on the board’s meeting agenda for comments from district students.

As initially presented Monday, the policy change would have given students five minutes each to address the board during meetings, however, the board landed on giving students “up to” five minutes instead.

Those who supported giving students five minutes each said it would allow students time to collect their thoughts and is comparable to the time given to district organizations like the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, while those opposed proposed a three-minute limit that they said would teach students to be concise.

“Learning brevity and conciseness is a skill that should be encouraged,” said board member Jason Tauriainen. “I believe that the five-minute time limit for the other groups, we have to recognize that they’re representing a larger group of people as the overall representative.”

Neviya Reed, the board’s student representative, said she didn’t feel strongly either way about the time limit for students, while Olivia Ferguson, the board’s information committee student representative, proposed a four-minute compromise.

“Allowing that time, I think, is a really good opportunity, but also keeping it concise is a great learning opportunity,” Ferguson said.

The board ultimately landed on “up to five minutes” language, which they said will give students adequate time to address the board without being pressured to speak for a certain number of minutes.

Videos from board of education meetings can be found on the district’s media site at media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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