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Proposed new charter school wants to get kids outside

Posted: January 4, 2013 - 9:13am  |  Updated: January 4, 2013 - 1:55pm
Addison Gibson works on her seventh-grade math homework for Kenai Middle School at her dining room table after school last week. Her family is in support of a proposed charter school.  M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
Addison Gibson works on her seventh-grade math homework for Kenai Middle School at her dining room table after school last week. Her family is in support of a proposed charter school.

Addison Gibson has a hard time sitting still.

When the Kenai Middle School student was younger, she would tell people her favorite part of school was recess.

Now, the 12-year-old says she does not have a favorite part of school.

“I just want to be at home,” she said.

Addison’s mother, D’Anna Gibson, along with other parents, community members and teachers spoke during the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education December meeting. Each asked the district to approve an application for the Greatland Adventure Academy.

D’Anna told board members of her nightly struggles to help Addison, a seventh-grader, complete her homework.

“I have four children; three that have fit the public school format very, very well and with Addison it has been a bigger challenge,” D’Anna said. “She has always been a very active child from the time that she could walk and movement for her engages her brain a lot better. It’s easier for her to concentrate, it kind of keeps her a bit more focused if she can have more movement in her body.”

The seven founding members of the academy put an application in to the state that included a lot of movement.

“We just see it as all of the outdoors being an extension of our classroom,” said Debbie Michael. “We will have an indoor classroom, of course, but getting the kids outside as much as we can and we’re hoping to partner with the wildlife refuge, it sounds like there’s a real open door for that.”

The school would also incorporate curriculum from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Michael pointed to a recent draft plan released by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development looking to incorporate environmental literacy into the classroom.

According to the charter school’s application, which was ultimately granted conditional approval by the school board, each day would be split into blocks of academic learning and activity.

The curriculum would include courses in hunter’s education, outdoor survival, forest ecology and other academic instruction which would align with the State of Alaska’s content standards according to its application.

Michael said each day would start out with physical activity before students dove into academics.

Addison said she benefits from sporadic bursts of activity, including the running and skiing that she does currently at her middle school.

“It just, like, clears my mind,” she said. “I just figure out everything that’s on my mind.”

Right now, she struggles with every subject because it’s hard to sit still and concentrate, she said.

“At home when I’m doing homework, I’ll do it for 20 to 30 minutes and take a small little break, eat a snack and then go onto a different subject,” she said. “I just jump on the trampoline or something.”

After bouncing around, Addison said she can sit down and tackle a subject again.

Right now, the charter school’s application plans to include seventh- and eighth-grade students, but Michael said it would ideally expand as interest grows.

After being approved by the local board of education, the charter school submitted its application to the state for consideration during the statewide Board of Education meeting in March.

Currently, no location has been found that meets all of the needs of the school and requirement of the fire code, Michael said, and the state will not approve an application without a facility.

“We’re looking for something centrally located,” she said. “Ideally it would be in the greater Soldotna area just because then we could get families from south of Soldotna, north of Soldotna and towards Kenai, but we’re open to options.”

Without a facility and without approval from the state, the charter cannot open enrollment.

“The biggest unknown there as far as the budget is our building and our facility,” she said. “I think that was the biggest question on our financing. Will we have a budget that will support whatever facility we find?”

Without knowing enrollment, Michael said, its difficult to know which specific activities the school could offer but she had a few ideas.

“Nordic skiing and snowshoes, the wildlife refuge has sets of snowshoes already, so those are two options,” she said. “Hiking, running, we hope to offer some basketball if possible, depending on gym space and where we end up. We don’t have a complete picture of what sports we can offer, but we’re thinking we can do some cross-fit type of sports because you can do those things in an open space, it doesn’t have to be a gym.”

The charter still has several hurdles to jump over before it can open its doors, Michael said, but it hopes to open in August.

“Just having the support of the district and approval was a big hurdle to get over,” she said.

For D’Anna and Addison, the new charter is appealing but may not be the best fit.

D’Anna said Addison is concerned about disrupting her social life for one year of instruction only to return to struggling once she transferred to a high school.

“If it went up to ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, she wouldn’t question it,” D’Anna said. “I kind of go back and forth with it, because I know academically it would just be so good.”

However, even if the school cannot open immediately or Addison decides not to go, D’Anna said she hopes it would still open.

“It’s just a real positive thing to see this happening,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t happen for my child, it can happen for another person’s child.”

Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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cbeard 01/04/13 - 05:43 pm
What the...

This is a little window, one fleeting but poignant example, into why Americans are losing to debt and losing grasp of what personal responsibility really means.

These people's desire to participate in recreational activities, in their minds, somehow, is so strong, that they have to apply to waste already-stretched state (and likely federal) resources so that their kids and participate in recreational activities.

And this is justified how?

Are the outdoors not big enough to get exercise? Are there not enough gyms for people who prefer a cozy warm environment? Are there not enough sports programs? Recess may be fading away from school, but so is educational performance, people. Maybe you should set an example for your kids when it comes to healthy physical lifestyles instead of waste everybody's time trying to be a charter school.

I am embarrassed to live in an area with people who want to use public funds (either by grants or detracting enrollment from legitimate schools) so that their kids can go snowshoeing and hiking.


Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/04/13 - 09:24 pm
Better than

Better than giving money so adults can sit on their butts inside instead collecting govt. money instead of working for a living, i say.
Personally i like charter schools, they can escape some of the Bull Crap from government inforced rules that demand our kids be filled with lies and crap like little mushrooms for the governments future little followers that are so stupid they will follow a false messiah off the cliff like the kids did when the Pied Piper played his flute and hypnotized them all.
Of course thats just my opinion of the benifits of Charter schools compared to forced public government schools.
If the govt. is gonna give away money lets start more private charter schools with their, i mean OUR OWN MONEY for a better education, so America will not remain #26 in education for all nations due to Public schools gr8 results of educating our youth, our future. My kids did just fine in home school and Cook Inlet Academy until we decided they needed to experance public schools to prepare for the future out in public. Down hill and ruined lives is what we got for our kids thanks to that choice of sacrificing them to the worlds systems. I don't place all blame on public schools, but they sure helped promote wrong life styles and bad choice making due to the continual bombarbment of worldly views and morals all ment to destroy families, not promote them or even promote the desire to succeed on their own without aid of some sort. True life is not graded on a curve, nor is success in any area, it's hard work and understand of life and it's trials every single second of every single day.
I think i will stop now on this issue and hope i have said enough in support for private and home schooled kids being the better way for all if it can be acheived.

Mariner 01/05/13 - 04:27 pm
Teacher evaluation

Keep in mind that in 2015 20% of a teacher's evaluation will be based on student testing. 3 years later it's 50% of an evaluation. Private schools and home schooled programs aren't evaluated in this fashion. If/When someone leaves a private school or home school program and returns to the public school the receiving teacher will be held accountable for all the previous education. With these conditions, why would anyone go in to education?

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 01/07/13 - 08:34 am
What's the topic again?

Four comments by motely
Six comments by WoW
Two by suss
Twelve of fifteen comments from three bloggers and only three of those are on topic and all of them attack each other personally. Kind of entertaining, but at the same time annoying!

On to the topic: Mariner, your assessment is correct, but I think this is more of a special needs field of education. Sort of like educating ADD children to help them develop at a near like pace as non-ADD children as possible. You sound like you may be an educator so obviously you have had the opportunity to work with children with Attention Deficit Disorder. It's very difficult to keep them on task and on topic and they may disrupt the flow of an entire class.
Even though these pupils may someday be returned to the public school system, it more than likely will be as an improvement rather than a detriment.
cbeard; bravo! You have hit the proverbial nail on the head! A lot of what happens IN a school is a direct result of what happens OUT of a school. A student is only as involved as a teacher keeps him involved! The biggest teachers are the two adults (parents) at home! Those are the ones that steady their child's course. If they are allowed to be disrespectful to others in the home, that is more than likely what you will have in life. If they are allowed to pass blame for their actions and not be accountable at home ... that is probably what you will see when they become adults. In my opinion, that is what Mrs Gibson is trying to do with her child... Steady her course and afford her every opportunity to learn. The one in school, he or she provides the curriculum for which that student is to follow at a pace in which they are able to follow.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with these people applying for a charter school. It doesn't necessarily mean they will be over run with students or even that the charter will be granted. There is nothing wrong with attempting to help set your child's course by whatever means available to you and in the process, help other children as well!

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/07/13 - 08:46 am

I more than likely have ATD, as i continuosly veer off course or topic and disrupt the flow. As far as the posters here and the battle thats raging between folks, it's a nonstop thing of those wanting to teach others and Mockers wanting people to remain stupid and in bondage. If you'll start at the top you'll see that i was on topic and the good Miss Dr Suss(who i suspect is a reporter, not absolutely sure)started trolling and i took the bait as well as motley. It must be a wonderful life being intelegent and well read with the ability to spell and punctuate correctly at all times while always on topic, i would not know. I want to know an am really working and trying to LEARN, EDUCATE myself as i go along. Not until i started doing this blogging stuff about 5 yrs back could i even begin to start or finish a conversation in writting with any form of good spelling or composition. As my son said a few months back, dad your getting better at spelling and punctuation and keep stroking.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet we allow many of our future to be brainwashed into believeing in false hope and fundamental change being preached at every level of life by false teachers or leaders for their evil end game of absolute control of everything and everyone. I'm working on my simple ADT brain every chance i get and this site is one of those tools i use to do so in this electronic age of complete unatainable knowledge at our finger tips. Many refuse to learn and thus suffer loss which is sad and why i fight nonstop to try and revert this course leading only downward as a people, society, community and world consumed with a lack of true knowledge or understand in all areas of life, present or eternal.
As i said a few times above, build the schools with our money,taxes, what better way to help others in need, rather than others in greed who are dragging us all off the cliff.
Still learning daily and wishing others the same, as we all trod along lifes highway until the day when we all will learn the correctness or error of our ways.
Have a GR8 Day and Prayers for all, from your friend, ATDWotW.

jlmh 01/07/13 - 11:52 am
Before accusing charter

Before accusing charter schools of taking funding from the mainstream public schools, consider that charter schools are held to a higher standard for that funding. They must pass their AYP to maintain their charter, whereas a public school can fail repeatedly, remain a school, and get more resources dumped into it as a result. The existing charter schools on the Kenai Peninsula are out-performing their public school counterparts. Why wouldn't we want these superior options in our community?

As long as they are covering the basic materials, I see no problem with incorporating other special activities to engage students. The per-capita funding remains the same. It's not like we are spending more money on a charter school student than on traditional students; it is just spent differently. As long as they are meeting the educational standards set by the borough, who cares? If they don't meet the standards, they lose their charter.

With rising drug problems reported in our communities, it appears that people aren't being engaged in wholesome activites. A school that addresses this by offering unique, healthy and practical skills to interest kids should be welcomed a chance to demonstrate their ideas.

motely 01/07/13 - 01:03 pm
RE : Watchman

Sam Von is so correct on the humor thing, with what I do for a living I am under an enormous amount of stress, I often read from time to time throughout the days, and just recently started reading articles here, I found it soothing and took my mind off work for the moment, and sure enjoyed learning from you folks.
Although Watchman, having to read these aggressive comments from the wanna be counselor's is not healthy, I apologize on the spelling and grammar thing, truth is I wouldn't think it should really matter, finding these folks was not difficult, lets just say they do not work for the clarion, but yet another facility and is located in Soldotna.
On the charter school thing, I think its a great resource !
what ever works for a person is what really matters, Right !
so far my children are doing well and pray they make the right choices with there education, home schooling a child would be a challenge, and definitely one I couldn't do, staying involved with there schools is working for us.

spwright 01/07/13 - 03:47 pm
Connections Program

If remember correctly ? The Connections Program did NOT
pass the mandatory AYP standards.

The Connections Program has the largest Student Population of any of our Schools.

These are the Home School Students.


Suss 01/07/13 - 07:07 pm
Top 10% Scholarship

Schools Not Meeting AYP for the 2011‐2012 School Year
Kenai Peninsula Connections Soldotna AYP Level 5 (Fifth Year)
Kenai Peninsula Homer High School Homer AYP Level 1
Kenai Peninsula Homer Middle School Homer AYP Level 2
Kenai Peninsula Kenai Central High School Kenai AYP Level 3
Kenai Peninsula Kenai Middle School Kenai AYP Level 1
Kenai Peninsula Mt. View Elementary Kenai AYP Level 3
Kenai Peninsula Nanwalek School Nanwalek AYP Level 2
Kenai Peninsula Nikiski Middle/Senior High School Nikiski AYP Level 4
Kenai Peninsula River City Academy Soldotna AYP Level 1
Kenai Peninsula Soldotna Elementary Soldotna AYP Level 1
Kenai Peninsula Soldotna Middle School Soldotna AYP Level 3
Kenai Peninsula Sterling Elementary Sterling AYP Level 2
Kenai Peninsula William H. Seward Elementary School Seward AYP Level 1

Lets say for scholarship purposes that the top 10% get a free ride at an Alaska University. Could a student with a high
GPA Transfer out of a larger highly competitive school and transfer in to a smaller under performing school their last year of high school to garner a

spwright 01/07/13 - 07:24 pm
Student Transfers

Unless the School Dist Policy has changed ?
Any Student may transfer Once per School year to another
School that is NOT at capacity student population.
But the Parents would have to provide transportation to & from the new School.
Once a school reaches student population capacity then the school principal may turn away new students wanting to transfer.


Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/09/13 - 09:20 am
What a waste

Ever learning, but, never obtaining knowledge of the truth.
Billions of dollars spent educating children with the twisted pervereted history or the world or creation of such.
Lies have become the acceptable norm of society world wide which is pushing all people into totalitarian governments world wide that is totally dependant on such Govts..
What is amazing is the total abandonment of truth or desire to learn reality from history past with the now accepted norm. Things, people, actions that use to be social outcastes are now become legal and acceptable in global society, with all that stand and say no this is not acceptable are considered trouble makers and need to be silanced for the good of all.
What amazes me is the people that are very smart on almost every area of life concerning ALL things temperal, will share their opinions nonstop on these many topics which actually have no significance to eternity. If only these folks would realize the good they could do with their abilities of obtaining knowledge and sharing or teaching others using tools like this computer or other true factual tools to share the Truth of eternity and knowledge of God and his eternal plan in the fight against evils distructive end game.
Man if i was just a little bit smarter like some and shared the important things of life and eternity what a wonderful thing this would be for teaching children or adults truth, rather than the lies of this evil worlds systems.
Always learning, but, never coming to the understanding or knowledge of the truth. 2 Tim. 2:24-3:9
Times are changing along with the teaching of our kids, are you helping or hurting our kids and our future as a free nation as a whole? Private or charter schools have a little more freedom to teach kids the truth of history past as well as history future, which can only be known or understood if one knows what is TRUTH. John 14:6
Have a GR8 New Year, and teach our children well, as you also are being taught.

Mario44 03/02/16 - 12:46 am
Student life should be liberal

I understand that the problem with the kid is lack of freedom and hectic schedules which are making her to be lethargic. It is completely wrong and if you ask me, even the essay writing skills of a kid would degrade which ultimately ends in a disaster. This is not we want, students should have fun and activities that can help them to interact more with classmates and teachers alike.

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