Alaska News Nightly: December 18, 2012

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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Alaska Provisions In Relief Bill Under Scrutiny

Peter Granitz, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska provisions in a relief bill for states affected by Hurricane Sandy are coming under scrutiny. Some senior Republican senators want to strip aid for the fishery disaster.

Final Chen Case Resolved

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Ft. Wainwright based soldier implicated in a hazing case is being discharged from the Army.  Lieutenant Daniel L. Schwartz is the last of 8 Stryker Brigade members charged related to physical and verbal abuse that resulted in the suicide of an army private last year in Afghanistan.

Census Bureau Releases Data on American Indians, Alaska Natives

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a long awaited report that includes the latest Census data for the Alaska Native population.

Sitka Schools: Stability, Calm Important After Conn. Shooting

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

Friday’s shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut has raised questions for teachers and parents across the country: How do you help children understand what happened, and how do you make them feel safe at their own school?

It’s a conversation taking place in many homes and classrooms this week, including those in Sitka. Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, for example, sent home a letter with tips on how to talk about the tragedy. School district officials are meeting with police to review security procedures. Teachers, meanwhile, are trying to maintain a routine in the classroom, but also be responsive to students who might need to talk about what happened.

Each week inside Room 11 at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, teacher Margie Esquiro and her second-graders have a class meeting.

“… where we talk about classroom rules,” Esquiro said. “Being safe, being responsible, being respectful, school rules, bullying, anything that comes up.”

And on Monday, she showed up for work and decided that she would wait to see if any of her students mentioned what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn.

“No one brought up the incidents that happened on Friday in Connecticut,” Esquiro said. “So, I thought, OK. And I had talked to a couple moms. Some families talked a lot about their children, and some didn’t. Some kids heard about it, and were totally oblivious. You just have to pay attention to the age of the kids.”

Monday’s conversation, she said, was much more general – about appropriate friendships, and getting along with other people. But at Keet, and at many other schools, students and staff have talked about safety before.

“We practice lock-down drills at every one of our buildings,” said Steve Bradshaw, superintendent of schools in Sitka.

He says the one of the drills just happened Friday at Sitka High School. The only exception, he said, is at Baranof Elementary School, which houses kindergarten and first grades.

“At Baranof, we don’t practice with the students in the building, just because we’re concerned about the maturity of the students at that level,” Bradshaw said. “But we do practice with the teachers there.”

Bradshaw says police have stepped up patrols around Sitka’s five school buildings, and that principals and police will meet on Tuesday to discuss security procedures.

Back at Keet Gooshi Heen, Principal Casey Demmert is sitting on the stage in the lunchroom.

“We are kind of toward the tail end of lunch. Fifth graders are just finishing up and heading outside to enjoy the snow,” Demmert said.

This school day doesn’t seem much different than any other this year. If anything, that’s because of what happened Friday, not in spite of it.

“One of the things that’s important, too, is that we continue with our daily routines,” Demmert said. “We ask teachers to keep an eye on their kids, of course, and if some are really struggling with things we have excellent school counselors who are available to really help kids process through the feelings they might have.”

And that takes us back to Margie Esquiro’s second grade classroom. This school day came and went without much talk of Connecticut, or shootings, or tragedy. But Esquiro says in the days ahead, her 7- and 8-year-old students will probably start getting curious.

“So I guess we’ll just see what happens,” Esquiro said. “It’s not going to go away in the media. It’s going to be on the radio. Now kids will start talking about it, to each other. And that happens on the playground. Kids will start talking about it and then they’ll come in with something that they heard. And we’ll just deal with it as it happens.”

Buccaneer Behind On Payments, Says City Manager

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Buccaneer Energy has experienced another setback in its efforts to deploy the Endeavor jack-up rig, which has been docked at the Homer Harbor about four months longer than originally planned. The company was forced to replace the operator of the rig after local workers complained about not being paid.

Alaska Casts Its Electoral College Votes

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska joined with the rest of the nation on Monday to cast its Electoral College ballots for U.S. President and Vice President. The state has three electoral votes.

Petersburg Borough Vote Deadline Today (12/18)

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

It’s the last day of voting for Petersburg’s mail-in borough election.  Ballots have to be postmarked by today.

State Looks At Southeast Alaska Wolf Control Programs

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

Southeast game managers are working on new wolf control programs for Southeast Alaska. The state’s Board of Game will hear about the plan when it meets in January in Sitka. The Department of Fish and Game is looking at reducing wolves near Petersburg and Ketchikan to help boost deer numbers. Predator control efforts are underway in other parts of the state but these new programs would be the first of their kind in decades for Southeast.

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