Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Parents, teachers and administrators in the Kenai Peninsula School District jumped into the new reality of eLearning March 30, with school facility closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of the eve of the change, KDLL visited with Crista Cady, music teacher at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, Skyview Middle School Principal Sarge Truesdell and Nikiski mom Ambger Douglas about their hopes and concerns for the new reality of education.
This week, we check back in to see how things went.

Borough agrees to $45 million floor for school district

Apr 22, 2020

 With the school year winding down, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is working on how to fund the next one. With the economy in suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic and oil prices in the basement, the future is unclear.

And not just for the borough. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District relies on the borough for part of its funding. The first step in determining the borough’s contribution is ensuring a minimum amount of money it will contribute to the district, with the option for the assembly to raise the final amount from there. At its Tuesday meeting, the assembly unanimously passed a resolution to set the floor at $45 million for next year.

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.

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.”