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 kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Fisheries approves Kenai River king salmon action plan

The plan adds bait restrictions for in-river fisheries, doubles the sport bag limit for sockeye salmon, and adds a swath of restrictions to the commercial setnet fishery

The Kenai Municipal Airport is seen on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
New Grant Aviation planes to double service’s flight capacity

The first of two Cessna 208B EX Grand Caravans will start transporting passengers on Monday

Stickers are available for voters at the Kenai No. 1 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to hold ‘I Voted’ sticker design contest

City council members approved the program during their Wednesday night meeting

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bill seeking to bump use of Alaska Performance Scholarship clears the House with unanimous support

The money is awarded to high-performing high school graduates to help pay for postsecondary education at participating institutions in Alaska

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Most Read