PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School Board has unanimously approved a $22,239 payment as part of a class action lawsuit against Altria, the manufacturer of Juul e-cigarettes, which was accused of contributing to teen vaping by marketing its product to minors.
The district was awarded $73,883 in the lawsuit; the settlement represented the net after legal fees and litigation costs.
“It’s pretty open-ended on what we you can utilize the funds for, but we will most certainly reimburse ourselves for vape detectors, which are about $1,000 each,” said Superintendent Marty Brewer on Thursday.
It could also use the award to create educational outreach directed at the health risks of vaping, he said.
Port Angeles was one of seven districts on the North Olympic Peninsula and more than 1,600 nationwide that joined the lawsuit and received a portion of a $168.3 million settlement.
Athletic director Dwayne Johnson reported to the board that more students were competing in sports this fall than last — a good sign after the COVID-19 pandemic took a harsh toll on participation numbers.
A total of 359 boys and girls —122 at Stevens Middle School and 237 at Port Angeles High School — were involved in fall sports compared with 336 last year, he said.
Board member Katie Marks asked Johnson about a lack of bus transportation to competitions, which forced teams to take vans that were not big enough to accommodate all of the athletes.
Johnson said he was aware of the problem.
“Sometimes we don’t know until 8 o’clock in the morning if we have a bus driver and our Plan B is to go to vans and support the varsity program to make sure they can go,” Johnson said.
Brewer said the bus driver shortage is a district-wide problem and it has been struggling to hire, train and retain bus drivers for the past three years. The district started the school year with just one substitute bus driver and it would like to have at least five, Brewer said.
“The real challenge is, we need drivers daily. We have a desperate need,” Brewer said.
A shortage of officials is also impacting sports, Johnson said.
“We’re recruiting like heck,” Johnson said. “Our football team, we have to play at Kingston next Thursday because there are not enough officials on Friday night.”
Johnson reminded the board that the 2023-24 season is the final year of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s four-year classification schedule that categorizes high schools by enrollment for athletic contests.
Schools are divided into six classifications (1B, 2B, 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A) to create competitive balance and fairness.
Johnson said Port Angeles High School will stay at class 2A for schools with an enrollment of 450-899 students. If Bainbridge Island High School’s request to drop from 3A to 2A due to an anticipated drop in enrollment is approved, Johnson said it would likely play Port Angeles in District 3.
In other news, the board:
• Approved the first reading of an amended policy that would enable high school students who failed a class to retrieve those credits without having to re-take the class.
• Recognized Dry Creek Elementary sixth-graders Hunter Clark and Lavender Munson as the district’s students of the month.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.