Olivia Ferguson, who is the student representative to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education’s Information Committee speaks during a board meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Olivia Ferguson, who is the student representative to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education’s Information Committee speaks during a board meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Students take advantage of new speaking opportunities at school district meetings

Students were able to communicate directly with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, where they shared student council resolutions and offered comments during a newly implemented designated time for student testimony.

“This is exciting,” Homer High School Student Neviya Reed said Monday. “It’s our first student representative report we’ve had on the agenda, like, as an actual item.”

Reed is the Board of Education’s student representative. Under changes approved by the board earlier this year, Reed now also has a designated time to give a report to the board about what she has been working on as a student representative.

The board initially approved in January the specific designation of time for student comments as well as time for Reed to give her report and finalized the move in February. Students have up to five minutes to address the board on any topic immediately after school reports toward the beginning of the meeting.

Reed used her Monday report to debrief board members on what she’s been up to since the last board meeting.

She accompanied a handful of board members during a legislative fly-in to Juneau in February, along with Olivia Ferguson, who is the student representative to the board’s Information Committee. Reed said that, while in Juneau, she and Ferguson learned how to give better public testimony, had meetings with 26 legislators and worked as guest Senate pages.

“It was so interesting to see, like, the different places that they live and how different my school is from theirs,” Reed said of other members of the Youth Advocacy Institute, which operates under the Alaska Association of School Boards. “It was amazing.”

Reed also provided to board members Monday updates on resolutions she worked on with the Homer High School student council, including one on school dances and one on recycling. Both resolutions, Reed said during a board of education work session Monday, were presented to the Alaska Association of Student Councils and both passed.

Citing the use of the planet’s resources at an “increasing and unsustainable rate” and schools’ ranks among the “largest waste generators in countries,” the recycling resolution urges the district to implement a recycling policy within all K-12 public schools.

KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Kari Dendurent expressed her interest in sitting down with Reed and Ferguson, as well as other students, to discuss the logistics of implementing such a program, including cost estimates, with the district’s director of planning and operations, Kevin Lyon.

The school dance resolution calls for the reinstatement of school-sponsored dances, which have been limited throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“School dances help promote social and emotional health, well-being, and peer connection outside of the classroom,” the dance resolution says. “Social connections and involvement in community are associated with lower teen anxiety, and depression rates.”

Olivia Ferguson took time during Monday’s meeting to advocate for more students to attend and testify at board of education meetings, especially in light of the new set-aside for student testimony.

“This is a time for us to speak,” Ferguson said. “It’s a time to get our voices out. … If you like some of the stuff that’s going on, if you have issues that you want to voice, it’s our time to speak and our time to use our voices.”

Monday’s Board of Education meeting can be viewed on the district’s media website at media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Homer High School student and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education Student Representative Neviya Reed speaks during a board meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer High School student and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education Student Representative Neviya Reed speaks during a board meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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