education

AVTEC

Fall marks the end of Seward’s busy tourism season. But as summer ends, a new class of students is just starting at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center. Classes resumed at AVTEC’s Seward campus this Monday.

Cathy LeCompte is AVTEC’s director. She says the dorms and on-campus apartments are back open, with a slew of COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Eva Knutson calls some of her boxes “boredom busters.” They look like they’d do the job, with topics like entomology, forensic science, and oceanography. They’re designed with instructions from start to finish, so parents can just unbox them and enjoy them with their kids, even if they don’t know much about entomology themselves.

 

"Everything is kind of spelled out in the materials, so if a parent gets 'entomology' and they don’t know anything about insects, all the printables have facts, all the information, so if a parent wants to teach their kid about spiders and insects, they can," she said. "Even if they don’t know anything about it, they get to be the teacher, which I really like, because I really like tht parents appreciate that."

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A delayed state budget process could result in temporary layoffs, or “pink slips,” for Alaska's teachers. It’s what happens when the Legislature is behind in its budgeting and school districts can’t guarantee teachers spots on the payroll for the fall.

A bill the House of Representatives passed this week, House Bill 169, would preempt those layoffs, funding public education sooner than the rest of the budget.

Charlissa Magen

It was the middle of the pandemic and parents were exhausted. Chera Wackler was home with her 8-year-old twins. 

“A lot of us parents were like, ‘I’m out of ideas,’" she said. "We’ve made the goop, we’ve made soap, we’ve tie dyed t-shirts. You know, I’m running out.”


Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Kenai Peninsula College will be mostly online again this spring.

All University of Alaska Anchorage campuses, including KPC, will remain in Phase B — the second reopening phase in a scheme of five. In Phase B, some classes, like labs, are taught in person, and on-campus housing is open at reduced capacity. 

Chancellor Cathy Sandeen wrote an email to the UAA community last week that current and future infection patterns made sticking to Phase B the most advisable plan going forward. She said that releasing the decision now gives students, faculty and staff time to prepare for another mostly remote semester.

In a newsletter to KPC students sent out today, College Director Gary Turner reiterated that the decision applies to KPC.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Enrollment is down 18 percent at Kenai Peninsula College this fall.

Last year, there were 2,072 students enrolled in the fall semester, 174 of whom were taking classes full time. This year, there are 1,729 students enrolled, 121 of whom are full time. Students are also taking fewer classes this semester — enrollment by credit hours is down by 20 percent.

There are a few reasons for that dip, said President Gary Turner. 

Jenny Neyman/Redoubt Reporter

When public schools closed in March, it left many families scrambling for child care.

But child care facilities had to deal with pandemic risks, too. Though Alaska designated those facilities essential and said they could stay open when other businesses had to close, some ended up closing their doors anyway, for various reasons.

School district issues opening plans

Jun 19, 2020
KPBSD

Kenai Peninsula Borough Schools Superintendent John O’Brien has announced the district’s planning for opening up school again in the fall.


Like most colleges and schools, Kenai Peninsula College made an emergency switch to entirely distance education and shut down its campuses around mid-March. The college is planning to go forward next fall with mostly distance-delivered  classes but there will be a handful of in-person classes when possible.

The college has summer classes but they’re all online, the way the spring was. By the time fall semester starts in September, some classes will be back to meeting in person — but only some, and in smaller numbers, with protective measures in place. Other typical functions, like the art galleries, will stay closed for the fall.

KPBSD

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement Thursday that distance delivery of education will continue through the rest of the school year did not come as a surprise to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff says the district has been expecting to continue the remote learning system it began March 30 through the end of school May 20.

“Overall, we’ve heard really positive things. The schools are there for our kids, our nurses are reaching out, we’re doing the lunch programs. And we can always improve, so we look forward to hearing, ‘What do you need?’ And we’ll be as responsive as we can,” she said.

KPBSD

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is as up in the air as everyone else about what the coronavirus pandemic will mean, financially.

The district’s Board of Education met Monday via teleconference. Acting Superintendent Dave Jones outlined several factors that will impact the district — one good, most bad.

The district has no mechanism to raise its own money, so is at the mercy of the borough, state and federal governments for revenue. Borough administration had committed to funding the district next year to the full amount allowed under state statute. But, given the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, Jones said that Mayor Charlie Pierce has warned that might not happen.

“He’s very concerned about the economic effect that’s happening in our borough, especially what is going to happen with our sales tax and with the possible delinquent taxes that could not get paid. Has a concern that they may not be able to support to the amount that they had originally committed to,” Jones said.

Meet the Douglas family. Mom and dad, Amber and John, and kids Noah, Ryan and Sawyer. Come Monday, they are going to be among the thousands of families shifting to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  

“I am super grateful that our teachers have had the courage that it takes to completely shift what they know about teaching kids and supporting families and be willing to put out something brand new and have the grace that we’re all going to be learning that together.”

The Douglases own Nikiski Hardware and Marine, where the office will become the schoolroom. Mom works in the office, so she’s going to take the lead on being the learning coach, technology troubleshooter, chief motivator, taskmaster and maybe a little Zen master.

“I think the big challenge for me coming into this is just understanding that we need to have balance. And if we can find these learning opportunities and be actively looking for them, they’re probably going to look different then were used to them looking, but they’re still going to be valuable. I’m going half to do some self-coaching and remind myself that they are 12, 10 and 4.”


Everywhere you look in trying to wrap your head around Monday's switch to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, there are positives and there are negatives.

There's no positive to a global pandemic, of course. But we are solidly in the digital age and the online connection skills and tools being learned by teachers, students and parents are going to be useful even after regular school is back in session.

"Those skills are being developed and learned right now that will really help people. Even students who struggle a little bit with technology and would never want to be in an online school, some of what we're doing will help them at the college level,” said Sarge Truesdell, principal at Skyview Middle School in Soldotna.


Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien is optimistic going into this budget season, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposing flat funding for K-12 education in Alaska, and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Peirce saying he’ll support local funding to the cap.

O’Brien addressed the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

“I’m very hopeful for 2020 I really feel we’re in a much better place than we were last year,” he said. “And I hope that we see good results and good things happening for our schools and our communities in the new year.”

KPC faculty vote no confidence for UAA president

Oct 14, 2019

 

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is losing support among faculty throughout the university system. The UAA Faculty Senate voted last week to recommend to the Board of Regents that Johnsen be suspended for his efforts to move the university toward a single accreditation, among other reasons. The Kenai Peninsula College Faculty Forum has already cast a vote of no confidence.

 

Budget impasse affecting scholarships, school plans

Jul 22, 2019
Kenai Peninsula College

 

Over the weekend, the state legislature was unable to come up with the votes to make any major changes to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s budget, or his plans to let certain funds revert back into state coffers. Those funds go to things like electric subsidies for rural Alaskans and scholarships for college students.

 


 

Spring 2019: Arts Education

May 28, 2019
Kenai Peninsula College

Education budgets have been a major discussion topic this legislative session. And when the possibility for cuts to schools becomes real, arts are often at the top of the list. Cam Choy, Associate Art Professor at Kenai Peninsula College; Sadie Sprenger, art student at KPC and Chris Jenness, Art Instructor at Soldotna High School join us to talk about art in and out of the classroom.

Kenaitze announce new school, Old Town projects

Apr 19, 2019
Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

 

The Kenaitze tribe announced plans for a multi-million dollar expansion of its facilities in Kenai Thursday.

 

 


House Finance looks at early education cuts

Apr 8, 2019

 

Early literacy programs were a target for budget hawks last week in Juneau, including some of the Kenai’s delegation to the House Finance Committee.

Superintendent finalists named

Mar 21, 2019

 

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek announced his retirement in January. Now, three finalists have been selected to be the next head administrator for the school district.

 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and administration from the borough school district held a budget work session Tuesday afternoon. The money struggles the district has been dealing with the past several years don’t look to have much relief coming in the next budget cycle.

 

 


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is eying a $1.3 million to $2 million budget deficit next school year. Much of that will be covered by the district’s reserve account. But the rest, depending on how state and borough funding shake out, could mean cuts in the classroom.


Econ 919: Junior Achievement helping drive the economy

Mar 2, 2018

 

By and large, kids have little direct impact on the economy. Oh sure, Mom and Dad spend a lot on them, but with little disposable income of their own, school kids’ spending power is limited.

This week on Econ 919, Jay Barrett tells us how the people at Junior Achievement are training today’s kids to be tomorrow’s financially responsible and productive members of society.


Assembly pushes for early education funding

Mar 1, 2018

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved with unanimous consent last week a resolution supporting the accelerated passage of the education bill in the Alaska State Legislature this year.

“What that is, we’re going to this resolution, if it passes, to the legislators saying, ‘Hey, if you can get us early funding in so we don’t have to lay teachers off, or pink slip teachers, before the budget process, it would be a great help to us,” said Assemblyman Brent Hibbert.

State test shows room for student improvement

Oct 23, 2017

 

This past spring, students around Alaska took the state’s new standardized test, the Performance Evaluation of Alaska Schools, or PEAKS.