State reduces K-Selo project price tag

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, September 14, 2016 10:19pm
  • News

The State of Alaska has reduced the price tag on the K-12 Kachemak Selo School replacement project, but Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre says it is no more palatable.

In an Aug. 22 letter to Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek, Elizabeth Nudelman, School Finance and Facilities director for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, reports the $16.7 million cost estimate is lowered to $13.7 million due to a drop in enrollment at the school. The revision lightens the required local share by more than $1 million to roughly $4.7 million.

“In the current fiscal situation the borough still can’t come up with a 30 to 35 percent match,” Navarre said. “It’s still another $5-6 million the (borough) is not likely to pony up for 55 students or however many are at the school right now.”

The replacement school sat on the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s construction grant list for two years before the Legislature agreed to fund the project this spring.

Original designs planned for construction of an 18,599-square-foot facility that would have room for 63 currently unhoused students. In her letter, Nudelman wrote the new allowable footage would be 15,226 — an 18 percent reduction.

Even with the smaller space, construction would cost $285,416 per student.

School Principal Timothy Whip said the number of students attending the school has slowly declined from 75 since 2011. Enrollment is largely due to families with children moving in and out of the Russian Old Believer village, which is located roughly 30 miles south of Homer. Since 2014 attendance hovered right around 50 students, he said.

For the past few months, Navarre has asked local and state officials, including members of Gov. Bill Walker’s staff, to consider reducing size requirements for the new school regardless of enrollment, as well as for more flexibility during construction and for housing labor.

Currently, Alaska statute has requirements for schools constructed in rural areas.

For combined elementary and secondary schools, 114 square feet of space must be made available per elementary student and 165 square feet per secondary student.

“However, each type of school gets supplemental square footage based on a formula,” said Eric Fry, information officer for the Department of Education and Early Development, in a previous Clarion interview.

Right now, K-Selo’s students attend class in multiple buildings. Total utilized educational space right now is only roughly 4,000 square feet.

Many students walk to and from school for lunch because there is no room in the buildings where everyone can congregate at once.

Most students are excited about the prospect of a new school, especially having a multipurpose room or gym to eat and play in when it’s cold, Whip said.

“The community just wants a good solid building that is built like a school as opposed to having three separate buildings spread across the village,” he said.

Each building has significant safety hazards, including slanting and sinking foundations, light fixtures with no coverings and potential exposure to toxic chemicals due to the lack of storage space. These and other issues were documented in a 2014 condition survey. One of the buildings was actually a house before it was turned into a school. Staff have reported fault locks and chronic plumbing issues, and students have questioned the how sound the structures would be in the event of a natural disaster.

“The students at Kachemak Selo need a new school,” said Paul Ostrander, chief of staff for the borough. “How that will look, I don’t know.”

It may be some time before any major movements are made, if at all. The borough still has to determine how much the local contribution will be, which depends on how successful Navarre is at selling his ideas to lower costs.

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the group approved transferring responsibility of the project and the state’s now $8.9 million contribution from the school district to the borough.

Superintendent Sean Dusek said the state’s fiscal situation will have a role in how the project plays out, and that the school district will still be weighing in.

“We will be working with the borough to see how this project can be done as efficiently as possible over the next few months,” he said.


Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the Alaska House of Representatives on Saturday rejected the budget bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week. The bill will now go to a bicameral committee for negotiations, but the end of the legislative session is Wednesday.
House votes down Senate’s budget as end of session nears

State budget now goes to negotiating committee

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday and sat down with the Empire for an interview. Sweeney said the three main pillars of her campaign are the economy, jobs and healthy communities.
Sweeney cites experience in run for Congress

GOP candidate touts her history of government-related work

One tree stands in front of the Kenai Post Office on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai taking down hazard beetle trees

The city hopes to leverage grant funds for most of the work

Former Alaska governor and current congressional hopeful Sarah Palin speaks with attendees at a meet-and-greet event outside of Ginger’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Palin brings congressional bid to Soldotna

The former governor took time Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with attendees

In this October 2019 photo, Zac Watt, beertender for Forbidden Peak Brewery, pours a beer during the grand opening for the Auke Bay business in October 2019. On Sunday, the Alaska House of Representatives OK’d a major update to the state’s alcohol laws. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Graphic by Ashlyn O'Hara
Borough, school district finalizing $65M bond package

Efforts to fund maintenance and repairs at school district facilities have been years in the making

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the House Majority Coalition spent most of Friday, May 13, 2022, in caucus meetings at the Alaska State Capitol, discussing how to proceed with a large budget bill some have called irresponsible. With a thin majority in the House of Representatives, there’s a possibility the budget could pass.
State budget work stretches into weekend

Sessions have been delayed and canceled since Wednesday

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Alaskans for Better Government members La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow, Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson and ‘Wáahlaal Gidáak Barbara Blake embrace on the floor of the Alaska State Senate following the passage of House Bill 123, a bill to formally recognize the state’s 229 federally recognized tribes.
Tribal recognition bill clears Senate, nears finish line

Senators say recognition of tribes was overdue

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s White Mountain crew responds to a fire burning near Milepost 46.5 of the Sterling Highway on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Cooper Landing Emergency Services)
Officials encourage residents to firewise homes

The central peninsula has already had its first reported fires of the season

Most Read