Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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School boards around the country have been in the spotlight throughout the pandemic, amid heated conversations about COVID-19 and mitigation protocols in schools.

That’s been true in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. And it’s partly what’s inspired some candidates to run for school board this election cycle.

Courtesy of Nathan Erfurth

Teachers and staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District have finalized their new contracts, which lay out a new tiered healthcare system and wage raises for some support staff, among other changes.

The district’s Board of Education ratified the new agreements this week. They’ll be in place until 2024.

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Local and national medical experts have recommended universal masking in schools to prevent the spread of the contagious Delta variant.

But the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced at a work session today it’s sticking to its policy of recommended masking districtwide and instead considering temporary mask mandates at individual schools depending on how those schools are impacted by COVID-19.

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UPDATE, 6 p.m. Tuesday:

Starting Wednesday, Seward Middle School, Seward High School and Moose Pass School will join Seward Elementary in requiring masking for all students and staff, at least until Sept. 10.

The Susan B. English, Port Graham and Tebughna schools are all also requiring face coverings at this time. There is no district-wide mask mandate in place.

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Tuesday is the first day of school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. For many families and staff, the usual first-day jitters are accompanied by deep concerns about rising coronavirus case numbers on the Kenai Peninsula.

The district is starting the school year with a new COVID-19 mitigation plan. Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said they’ll handle cases of potential exposure to the virus a little differently than they did last year.

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Face masks will not be required in Kenai Peninsula Borough schools when classes start up again this month — contrary to new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that schools universally require masks amid the more contagious Delta variant.

The mask policy is part of the district’s new COVID-19 mitigation plan for the upcoming school year.

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Critical race theory was not on the agenda of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board meeting Monday night, or the meeting before it. But it’s been coming up at those meetings anyway, as parents share concerns that their kids are being indoctrinated with a progressive agenda.

Meanwhile, the district said it doesn’t plan on teaching critical race theory at all.

A lot of schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are in the borough's cities, connected to most of the peninsula through the road system.

But others are more remote, accessible only by plane or boat. And it can be hard for students in those communities to access the same opportunities as others.

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Masks are no longer required for students and staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Incoming Superintendent Clayton Holland announced the change this week — ending a mandatory mask policy that drew ire from members of the borough administration but that the district said helped keep COVID-19 out of schools.

Kristine Route/Best Route Productions

Graduations are milestones for every family. In Cooper Landing, this year’s graduation was also a milestone for the community.

Linnaea Gossard became the Cooper Landing School’s first high school graduate Monday night, almost a decade after the K-12 school opened to high-schoolers.


Gabby Bond

Two Moose Pass classmates caught top prizes in this year’s Fish Art Contest, a competition in which students research and draw fish of their choice in the name of conservation.

Eight-year-old Gabby Bond came in second among Alaska students in her age group for her illustration of a garibaldi. 

Courtesy of KPBSD

Distance learning was never Kim Leslie’s long-term plan. But when a job opened up at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for a position in the distance learning department, she applied anyway.

“I looked at it as a foot in the door. That was my plan,” she said. “I had secured a job in the district, and then given some time, I would figure at what school I wanted to be at and then angle for that.”

That was almost a decade ago. Leslie’s still the district’s distance science teacher and she’s since fallen in love with distance learning.

“It turned out not to be a foot in the door. It turned out to be a life passion job,” she said.


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Update, 5 p.m.

The air in the building has been evacuated and Kenai Central High School students will return to a normal school day Tuesday. Today's classes were held remotely, so there's no need for a make-up day.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board will also meet as planned this evening in the school auditorium. You can find more on that meeting on the district's website.

Travel was one of the first things to go last March, sending students who were on the Kenai Peninsula for foreign exchange — and their counterparts from Kenai who were abroad — packing.

But some programs are coming back in 2021. Our guests are Mitch Michaud with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program, in conjunction with Kenai Peninsula College; Eileen Bryson with the local chapter of the American Field Service; and Will Morrow with the Soldotna Rotary Club's exchange program.

KPBSD

It will be a while before the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District knows for sure how much it will have in its budget next fiscal year.

But the process is in motion. The district is holding public forums later this month to educate people on the budget process and crowdsource information about funding priorities.

Already, it’s drafted a preliminary budget for FY22.

“But it is just a draft," said school board president Zen Kelly.

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District vaccinated over 300 educators and support staff against COVID-19 Friday at clinics across the peninsula. 

Mountain View Elementary Principal Karl Kircher got his first dose at the Soldotna clinic. He was really excited about it.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district are starting budget negotiations with a $10 million difference between their proposals.

The borough won’t finalize the budget for the 2022 fiscal year until this summer. But at a work session Tuesday between the borough assembly and school board, the district presented an initial request for $53 million in local contributions.

The borough set a floor of $43 million. That’s how much the borough assembly approved for the district in 2013 and is $7 million less than the district is getting in 2021.

Renee Gross/KBBI

Bonds are back on the table. 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is again considering a $29,940,000 bond to fund 19 maintenance projects in the school district, ranging from building a new school in Kachemak Selo to updating decades-old building automation systems.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and borough planned on putting that proposal to a vote this fall, but things were delayed because of COVID-19. 

Pegge Erkeneff

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s new superintendent is a familiar face. The board of education chose Clayton Holland to lead the district next year. 

Holland is the district’s assistant superintendent of Instruction, and was the only one of the three finalists with deep roots in the district.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is asking for input in its search for a new superintendent.

Current Superintendent John O’Brien is retiring this spring. The district is down to three candidates for his spot: Jason R. Johnson of Dillingham; Janelle Vanasse of Sitka; and Clayton Holland, who currently works in the district.

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Four schools on the eastern peninsula will open to all students five days a week starting Monday.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District classrooms reopened Jan. 11 after three months of distance learning. While coronavirus case counts were still relatively high, seventh- through 12th-graders returned on alternating schedules twice a week.

But the eastern peninsula reported seven cases in the last 14 days, bringing it down to the district’s “medium risk” tier. Now, all students in Seward and Moose Pass will be back in school five days a week.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will return to in-personal classes Jan. 11. Educators are preparing for the change.

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Winter vacation is over for Kenai Peninsula students, who returned to their virtual classrooms Monday. But in just a week, they’ll be back in their real classrooms, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced this afternoon.

The district was originally planning to reopen schools Jan. 19, following guidance from an advisory committee that included teachers, staff and medical experts. 

Now that return will happen Jan. 11. The district said the shift is because of a reduction in COVID-19 transmission on the peninsula. 

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Students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are set to return to their classrooms Jan. 19. But if COVID-19 case rates continue to trend downward, the school may open up to in-person classes a week early.

Superintendent John O’Brien at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon today said he will make an announcement by Monday about whether that will be the case.

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Since schools went remote last spring, then again this fall, parents and teachers have been searching for ways to keep their students social.

One Kenai Peninsula school has found a partial answer in multiplayer online games.

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor’s chief of staff is heading an effort to send all students in the school district back to in-person school full time.

James Baisden, who has three kids in the district, is asking Mayor Charlie Pierce and the borough assembly to advocate a full return to classrooms, instead of the district’s current plan. He and other parents are threatening to pull their kids out of remote school if the district does not approve a plan by Jan. 4 to send more kids back to school five days a week.

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Nordic skiing is the first winter sport in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to get the all-clear.

The district has approved a mitigation plan and skiers will rejoin their practice pods Monday. The first race is planned for Jan. 16, three days before most students will resume in-person classes.

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Half the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will be back in schools five days a week as early as Jan. 19.

It’s something many parents in the district have been pushing for since classes went remote in October. But representatives said teachers and support staff are split on bringing thousands of students back as the virus intensifies locally.

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Inside a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting Monday, parents, students and staff gave mixed testimony on the district’s adherence to a remote learning plan. Outside the meeting, on the sidewalk in front of Kenai Central High School, a group of 40 protesters held signs with messages like “I want 2-B in school,” “No fear” and “Open our schools.”

Kimberly Powell has a daughter in seventh grade and a son in fifth grade at Skyview Middle School. She said she owns her own business, which has made learning from home difficult.


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The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is short on subs.

As a result, staff, teachers and existing substitutes are straining to work more than they want to.

“We absolutely have to build up our substitute pool,” said Anne McCabe, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, at the Sept. 14 school board meeting. "We have many employees who are in a heightened state of work because they know they can’t take time off. There is no one there to sub for them.”

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