The City of Soldotna is giving the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College a $222,300 grant to be used for a virtual health and wellness clinic, laptop and technology support for virtual learning, paramedic/EMS program expenses and a scholarship program for students.
The Soldotna City Council voted in support of the grant at their Oct. 28 meeting, which was formally presented as Resolution 2020-052 and will be made using CARES Act money.
According to a memo to Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen from Assistant to the City Manager Laura Rhyner, city administration worked with the college to identify specific programs that would be eligible to be reimbursed using CARES Act money, meaning they are necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Alaska, including Kenai Peninsula College, began operating remotely in March, according to the memo, with campuses closed and 90% of classes delivered remotely. The college has been operating under the same conditions this semester and will continue to do so for the Spring 2021 semester.
“As a direct result of the pandemic, KPC’s Kenai River Campus has requested economic relief to better serve its students during these challenging times,” the memo reads.
$35,000 of the grant will be used to create a virtual health and wellness clinic that will be available to all students as they deal with things like unemployment, child care issues, completing coursework and other associated psychological stressors during the pandemic.
The money will be used to cover the cost of the college health clinic’s registered nurse, who was furloughed when the campus closed. Services can be accessed by students via Zoom, Blackboard, email and other virtual platforms, according to the memo.
$32,800 of the grant will be used to support virtual learning at the Learning Center, the library and IT. In total, 25 Dell laptops and other equipment will be made available for checkout to students, staff and faculty to use. Five of the laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots are allotted for students enrolled in Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language programs through the Learning Center. Ten of the laptops are allocated for any KRC student to check out and use either at home or on campus. The remaining 10 are for staff and faculty to check out while working from home.
The remaining $101,000 will be used to fund an in-house modified capstone internship program for 20 paramedic students, who usually complete the internship at EMS departments in the Lower 48. The internship is the final requirement of the students’ program.
The internship program will require, among other things, medical supplies used in simulations and training, manikins primarily used for trauma scenarios, a high-fidelity infant simulator and skills labs.
Kenai Peninsula College’s Paramedic Program Director Paul Perry spoke in support of the grant and gave further details about the college’s paramedic program.
“As you consider the uses of your CARES funds, I would ask that you look to Kenai Peninsula College,” Perry said. “COVID has taken a toll on a lot of people, but maintaining a solid training foundation will be well worth the investment in the long run.”
Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner also spoke in support of the resolution at the Wednesday meeting.
“Like so many other institutions, organizations and individuals, COVID-19 has caused many negative impacts on our college, our students and our faculty and staff,” Turner said. “With your support some of these hardships can be lessened for us, especially for our students.”
In addition to the $168,800 proposed by the city, Kenai Peninsula College requested $93,000 to fund a scholarship for students who are Soldotna residents and to fund facility expenses including hands-free sanitizer stations and exterior door operators that would allow doors to open automatically when a Kenai Peninsula College ID card is swiped.
City Council Member Jordan Chilson made a motion to amend the resolution so that the grant also included the $53,500 requested to fund the scholarship.
As of Oct. 28, there was $315,000 left of the $750,000 the city council approved for Phase II of grants for nonprofits and critical service partnerships at their Sept. 23 meeting. $305,000 in grants was proposed at the Oct. 28 meeting, meaning an increase of the $53,500 needed to fund the scholarship would have exceeded the total that the city originally allocated for Phase II of the grants.
However, Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said that money could be reallocated from one of the other line items from the city’s CARES Act spending plan, such as the Economic Relief for Residents program, where Queen said that the city budgeted a lot of money that will not all be spent.
“There will be excess funding available in the Resident Relief Program as well as the water/sewer relief program,” Queen said. “So I think within our CARES Act budget, on the whole, there are funds available should the council approve the motion.”
The council approved the inclusion of costs for the scholarship program in the grant total, which increased to $222,300 as a result.
According to the memo, the scholarship will be offered in the form of a $500 tuition waiver and will be available to approximately 107 Kenai Peninsula College students who live in the City of Soldotna.
The city did not include the $40,000 in facility expenses requested by the college in their final grant amount.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com