Assembly to consider bonds for K-Selo school

Assembly to consider bonds for K-Selo school

Kenai Peninsula Borough voters may be asked this fall to take on several million dollars in bond debt to pay for a new school in the remote Russian Old Believer community of Kachemak-Selo.

The approximately 50 students at the K-12 school in Kachemak-Selo, operated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, use three older buildings — one is converted home — that have long needed repair or replacement. Students and parents have reported cracked walls, drafts, plumbing and roof leaks and inadequate equipment.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has proposed an ordinance that would ask voters this fall whether the borough can issue bonds to cover the required local match for state grant funds for the school. The proposed ordinance lists the total bond amount as $3.5 million, but during the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s finance committee meeting May 15, Pierce said the administration plans to amend that to about $5.39 million to access the full state grant of approximately $10.87 million. The ordinance will be on the agenda at the assembly’s June 5 meeting.

Kachemak-Selo, the farthest east of three Russian Old Believer villages east of Homer, is at the bottom of a large hill without a safe road to drive from the village to the road system. Because of that obstacle, the state deems Kachemak-Selo as its own attendance area and requires the school district to provide a school for the students there.

“Local residents access the village via an established trail; however, there is not an accessible road as defined by borough or state road standards,” wrote Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh in a memo to the assembly. “Since 2012, borough and school district personnel evaluated alternate transportation methods in lieu of school construction.” Officials determined building a road is not feasible “due to the geographical inaccessibility.”

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said during the assembly finance committee meeting that the district’s board of education has not yet committed formal support to the school construction, but the board will likely discuss it in the future.

“There are a number of students there that currently are being educated in sub-par buildings,” he said. “For those kids, educationally, I think it’s a good thing.”

There are about 50 students in the school, though the enrollment was about 70 when the idea of a new school building was originally drafted, he said. If the new school is built, the enrollment may increase again, Jones said. “It’s believed now that because of the way the school is built, people are making other educational arrangements.”

The current plan calls for a new 18,599-square-foot K-12 school, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s purchasing and contracting department website, which handles capital projects for the borough.

The school district and borough began working on the project in 2012, originally targeting improved road access so that students could reach Homer. Later, the idea of a single school to serve Kachemak-Selo and the neighboring villages of Voznesenka and Razdolna was pitched, but later scrapped because the road project was deemed impossible. The borough asked for funding from the state to build Kachemak-Selo its own school in 2013. The state legislature in 2016 approved the state grant with a required local match.

Several Kachemak-Selo community members voiced support for the bonds at the assembly’s May 15 meeting. Tim Whip, principal at the Razdolna and Kachemak-Selo schools, thanked the mayor for the bond package in his testimony to the assembly.

“The school is deteriorated to the point where it is an unsafe condition for students,” Whip said. “Something has to happen.”

If the assembly approves the ordinance, voters will decide whether to approve the bonds in the Oct. 2 election. Borough property tax revenues would be used to repay the bonds.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Most Read