Community members, parents, staff and students concerned about the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s potential plan to consolidate Soldotna High School and Soldotna Prep School gathered in the Soldotna High School Auditorium to get more information about how that consolidation would affect them, Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Community members, parents, staff and students concerned about the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s potential plan to consolidate Soldotna High School and Soldotna Prep School gathered in the Soldotna High School Auditorium to get more information about how that consolidation would affect them, Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

SoHi, SoPrep to consolidate

Ninth graders will be joining the 10th, 11th and 12th grade students at the Soldotna High campus.

Starting this fall, Soldotna Prep School will be closed and consolidated into Soldotna High School. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education unanimously voted to consolidate the two schools at Monday’s board meeting.

This fall, the ninth graders originally housed in Soldotna Prep will be joining the 10th, 11th and 12th grade students already using the Soldotna High campus.

Tenured teachers will move and continue teaching at Soldotna High. The district does not know which non-tenured teachers, who still do not have contracts, will be retained until budget concerns are resolved. The district says Soldotna High School will be able to accommodate all of the students, and three portable classrooms will be moved to Soldotna High to ensure there is enough room for students and teachers. Students in sports and student activities may have less time for practice in the gym, and some practices will be later in the evening next year, the district said. The district is also recommending a third principal at Soldotna High to help minimize any increase in bullying, and to create a safe school culture.

The Soldotna Prep building is also home to River City Academy, a small seventh through 12th grade school. The district plans to move the academy into Skyview Middle School, which is home to seventh and eighth graders.

Concerns over the consolidation of Skyview Middle School and River City Academy dominated the public comment taken before the vote at the school board meeting. Many Skyview Middle School students spoke in opposition to the consolidation.

Emerson Lorring, a seventh grader at Skyview Middle, spoke to the board with concerns about bringing River City Academy students into the middle school.

“River City has a different handbook, and that could resolve in issues,” Lorring said. “Our classrooms and everything may be separated but our hallways and bathrooms will not.”

Skyview Middle School principal Sargeant Truesdell also spoke at the school board meeting.

“I want to say I’m proud of our Skyview students willing to stand up and voice their concerns about their school,” Truesdell said. “We recognize RCA students didn’t want to be moved either.”

The public comment ended on a positive note. Dawn Edward Smith, principal of River City Academy said this option was the best one moving forward.

“Our school is far more than the building we live inside,” Edward-Smith said. “Skyview and RCA can work out the details.”

Before the vote took place, several school board members spoke positively about the upcoming changes.

“I’ve heard a lot about thinking of the positives,” school board member Debbie Carey said. “We need to think about the positives and the relationships students can build together. Although this isn’t ideal because of the time line, I think that working together these two schools can make one amazing campus for all the students.”

Soldotna High student and student representative to the school board Tanis Lorring said she hoped the move would prove to be positive for both schools.

“This is a rare occasion,” Lorring said. “We don’t always get hit with it this fast. I really hope this can turn out to be a good thing for Skyview. I know there are going to be concerns. There are some valid concerns students brought up, but we can move forward.”

Lorring also said she wished there was more community involvement before the decision was made.

“I think right now, this is the only and best thing we could have done for this specific situation,” Lorring said.

Prior to the school board meeting, the school district put out a survey for students, staff, parents and community members to weigh in on the consolidation decision. The survey found the majority of survey participants were in favor of the consolidation, with no community members opposed. Students were the most opposed to the consolidation, with nearly 40% of them voting against it in the survey. Less than 20% of district staff voted against the move, and roughly 10% of parents voted to not consolidate.

The Soldotna Prep building will be vacated and turned back over to the borough, which will decide what is next for the building.

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