The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shared successes and concerns with the legislators during House and Senate committee meetings last week.
Board of Education member Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, River City Academy student Kaegan Koski and district Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff participated in the Alaska Association of School Boards’ Legislative Fly-in day Feb. 10.
Cary highlighted some of the academic innovations KPBSD is pursuing, such as personalized learning, video-conferencing, a drone academy and career and technical education.
“As part of our strategic plan, we focus on four Rs — ready, relevant, responsive and rigor,” Cary said.
Koski reported on reading initiatives and ways the district is addressing students’ social and emotional needs. A Sources of Strength suicide prevention program has been implemented at 11 schools, with plans to expand to more.
“Which empowers students to connect to each other and identify when other students are experiencing feelings of depression or sadness,” Koski said. “It allows them to work with each other closely and intervene before something very bad can happen, or simply intervene and help when something not quite so drastic as suicide might happen.”
According to Erkeneff, the district had $3.9 million left in unassigned fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2019. KPBSD is projecting a little over a $2 million shortfall in its budget next year. As it has done in previous years, the district will dip into its savings to cover the shortfall, but that savings account is about tapped out. If state funding cuts aren’t reversed, the district will once again be looking at making reductions. Cary hopes that Sources of Strength will survive, as it was initiated with grant funding.
“We’re hopeful,” Cary said. “We’re hopeful to forge forward with those connections. Mental wellness is a very important subject to everybody, and if we can address it at the younger ages, I think that at the high school level, we would have stronger students.
The district is holding public budget forums this week to let the community know what to expect next year. Forums are from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Kenai Central High School library and Thursday at the Soldotna High School library.