Team members from the Aurora Borealis ‘Polar Bears’ practice their robots programming during Saturday’s First Lego League at Aurora Borealis Charter School. The competition challenges students to solve an issue with legos, teamwork and some engineering. The team went home with the Champion’s Award and will continue on to the state competition in Anchorage. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Team members from the Aurora Borealis ‘Polar Bears’ practice their robots programming during Saturday’s First Lego League at Aurora Borealis Charter School. The competition challenges students to solve an issue with legos, teamwork and some engineering. The team went home with the Champion’s Award and will continue on to the state competition in Anchorage. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

School board advances efforts for new Aurora high school

Parents and students wanting to expand Aurora Borealis Charter School into a high school are one step closer to their goal after the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved their application to establish a high school Monday evening.

Several conditions were added to the application, including that a separate building meeting occupancy requirements be obtained within two years of the opening; there must be student transportation services and student nutrition services, and lottery preferences for current Aurora Borealis Charter students must be removed.

In their application, they state they desire to establish the high school “to continue the research-based preparatory education of Aurora Borealis Charter School, grades K-8, through whole group, subject-centered direct instruction.” The curriculum differs from other educational programs in the community, the application said. The application also states there will be a maximum of 24 students per teacher, with a projected enrollment of 18-24 students per grade.

On Monday night, a large crowd of Aurora Borealis parents and students filled the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers for the school board meeting, several of which provided passionate testimony in support of a high school extension of the charter school, which currently serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Aurora Borealis Charter School committee wrote in documents provided in the school board agenda that their goal is to open the high school by August 2019.

Emily Moss, a seventh-grader at Aurora Borealis Charter school, told the school board that her school has been a good fit for her.

“It is the only school I have gone to that teaches me in a way that makes sense to me,” Moss said. “I want to continue this through high school.”

An eighth-grader from Aurora Borealis Charter, Madison McDonald, also spoke highly of her current experience at the school.

“I would love to have a high school because I much enjoy the way they teach there and everyone is nice and accepting,” McDonald said.

Several parents said they supported the effort to build a high school, and hoped their children could continue their education in the same environment.

Dana McDonald, a parent of two Aurora Borealis Charter school students, said the school has been amazing for her children.

“It’s a place I know they feel accepted and welcome,” she said. “They love learning here. One of my daughters on her first day of school, I asked her how her day was, and it really struck me, even to this day, that she said it just feels like home there. I hope this charter is approved so we have the opportunity to continue that.”

Amy Spillman has a kindergartner and a second-grader at the charter school.

“I want my kids to have the opportunity to continue to excel and learn and be pushed to go above and beyond what I believe a normal high school experience can provide them,” Spillman said.

In documents provided in the school board agenda, the Aurora Borealis Charter High School committee has plans to use portables — or relocatable classrooms — on the Aurora Borealis Charter School site while the committee works to ready space at the Carr’s Mall in Kenai.

“The use of the space at the Carr’s Mall would be utilized beginning year two, which would allow us approximately 20 months to work through this approval and if needed upgrade process, which we feel is adequate and reasonable,” the document read. “Part of the space approval would also include an expansion plan to incorporate a permanent space starting year 3 to house grades 9-12.”

The school board voted unanimously to approve the application, which moves on to the state now.

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