The Wrangell School Board discussed its budget for the upcoming fiscal year Wednesday. Superintendent Patrick Mayer explained that student enrollment is expected to be static at about 270 students, and health insurance costs are expected to increase by 10 percent. He noted that federal funding for rural schools is also expected to be discontinued.

“I’ve been getting a barrage of emails from both the federal and the state side and that amounts to $690,000 annually for our district,” said Mayer. “That has been diminishing, but every year it has been resurrected at the last minute.”

Mayer said that the federal funding’s fate isn’t certain, but state education cuts are also possible. The district expects a 5 percent overall decrease in the budget.

“Five percent is a fairly conservative approach I think for where we might land, but we’re going to have to wait and see,” he said.

The final draft will be examined by the board on April 17 and the borough assembly in May.

The board also approved changes to an extra-curricular drug testing policy. Students in activities were previously tested on a weekly basis. The district will now choose dates throughout the year. When asked how many tests will be administered per year, Mayer didn’t clearly answer. He responded that the move gives the district “more flexibility.”

Board member Susan Eagle asked that alcohol also be included in testing.

“The research that I did said that it can stay in the urine up to 48 hours. I don’t think there’s any reason not to test for it,” she said.

Most tests claim the ability to detect alcohol in urine within 48 hours of consumption. Mayer explained that the district doesn’t test students for alcohol due to how fast it leaves the system.  A drug testing company selects 10 percent of students in activities at random and performs all testing work.

A sex-ed policy change was also finalized. The policy promotes abstinence as the “only totally effective way” to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STDs. The district is offering the Let’s Talk program, an abstinence-based curriculum, this year. The program was presented to the public and the board at its November meeting. All sex-ed curriculums are required by state law to be presented to the public before it’s taught in the class room. Public health nurses have given additional presentations in past years, but none were invited by the board to present to the public.

In other business, a date was set for negotiations between the Wrangell Teacher’s Association and the district. Both parties will begin talks on January 16.