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Schools to talk about change

Posted: January 29, 2013 - 10:28pm  |  Updated: January 30, 2013 - 1:28pm

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has recommended a plan for restructuring Soldotna-area schools in an effort to address declining enrollment.

While no decisions have been finalized, district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said the school district would be promoting a reconfiguration of the schools into six kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary schools, two seventh- through ninth-grade middle schools and one 10th- through 12th-grade high school.

The final structure of the schools has yet to be determined, but Erkeneff said the current reconfiguration plan was designed to minimize transition times for students between schools.

Each affected community school will have a community meeting on the reconfiguration Feb. 11 before the district administration presents its final recommendation to the Board of Education during a March work session, Erkeneff said.

Currently, the Soldotna area has six elementary schools that feed into one middle school. Students then are split into two high schools. Both Soldotna High School and Skyview High School are operating at less than 60 percent capacity according to district enrollment figures. Skyview’s enrollment projections in FY14 and FY15 are projected to drop to 54 percent while Soldotna High School is projected to reach 60 percent.

Erkeneff said enrollment has been declining at Skyview for several years.

“If we do nothing, in approximately three years we would have to close the school,” she said.

As enrollment levels drop so do course offerings and staffing at the affected schools.

Soldotna Elementary and Sterling Elementary began independently looking at reconfiguration of their schools which kick-started the conversation, Erkeneff said.

Ten elementary schools, Kalifornsky Beach, Redoubt, Soldotna Elementary, Soldotna Montessori, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary, as well as Soldotna Middle School, Soldotna High School, Skyview High School and the River City Academy have been included in the discussions.

“We worked through all sorts of scenarios, looked at enrollment, looked at equity ... we looked at the current buildings we have, there’s no funding to build new schools,” Erkeneff said. “None of the schools are going to look the same as they do now, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Part of that work involves getting input from the community.

“We did a focus group with elementary-age teachers because we’re listening and looking at elementary age students that are, in coming years, going to be attending high schools,” Erkeneff said. “We met with representatives, with parents from each of the ten schools, with community members (and) business owners.”

The district also a schools survey for ten days in September.

Of the 989 completed surveys, 62 percent of those who responded were parents or guardians, 28 percent were students and 15 percent were district employees.

More than 65% percent responded that the current configuration of schools in Soldotna needed to be changed, however opinions differed on how it should be done; several recommended a career and technical high school and one traditional high school in their comments.

Others commented that they did not like seeing students split up into two high schools after attending the same middle school.

Erkeneff said the administrators who designed the survey realized they may have not released enough information to the public before polling them.

“We didn’t prep people well enough for what we wanted to know,” she said. “It might have been more helpful to tell people some more background.”

While the school district had not planned to make any changes until the fall of 2015, Erkeneff said the two focus groups used to help the administration with its recommendations had suggested changing the school structure by the fall of 2014.

Either way, Erkeneff said the idea was to tackle the issue before it became an emergency.

“We’re being proactive so we don’t have to be reactive in a couple of years,” she said.

 Editor's Note: This story has been edited to reflect the correct percentage of survey respondents who said they supported a change in configuration of Soldotna's schools. 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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spwright
1376
Points
spwright 01/30/13 - 08:52 am
0
0
Can't Happen at My School

Wed 1/30/13
"They can't close My School cuz We are Too Important !"
Popular myth between School Dist Employees.

Just remember that Management spoke of closing Nikiski Ele for 3 years & Boom they closed Nikiski El & moved everyone to North Star Ele.

Any School that has less than 200 Students is On the Chopping Block & being considered. But they have talked about closing Skyview HS for decades now & it hasn't happened yet.

SPW

Happy_Lady
22
Points
Happy_Lady 01/30/13 - 02:19 pm
0
1
Great Idea

I think this is a great idea! My only suggestion would be to rename Soldotna High School and possibly new school colors. Skyview High is going to cease to exist; by renaming the "new" school all kids gets a fresh start. I think it might help the Skyview students feel respected and there is less "home turf" of current SoHi students. When Nikiski Elementary and Northstar Elementary combined they became Nikiski Northstar. My personal favorite is Soldotna Skyview or SoSky!

Mariner
148
Points
Mariner 01/30/13 - 04:01 pm
0
0
Changes are needed....

Given about 80% or more of our students don't go on to college, it only makes sense to revisit our traditional, college prep program emphasis. A Voc-Tec dedicated school is so needed. This circumstance has existed for way too long. I know it's about money but then ......aren't our children worth it?

If our high schools are consolidated I think it important to have a unique historical section....one that recognized the school academic and athletic records achieved at each respective school until closure. The prominent on going records should begin with the combined schools. SoHi has a history back to the late 70's and Skyview 1989. To not recognize the past is to state...."it didn't happen".

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 01/31/13 - 06:31 am
0
0
usage

What is to be done to the vacated schools? Will they end up as a vacant tax burden? Will there be searches for buyers,or would there be an attempt to lease for commercial use?

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 01/31/13 - 07:07 am
0
0
Vacant Bldgs

Thur 1/31/13
Now Adminstration will deny this.
The School Dist Administration on Binkley Street Soldotna has been "drooling at the mouth" for years with dreams of moving into SkyView High School South of Soldotna.
If You go into the School Dist Admin Offices in Soldotna those Employees are packed in there like Sardines.Go up to the 3rd Floor & check that out.
Very Close Quarters & over populated. They have requested more Space & more offices for years but can not get the Voters to approve the bond proposals.
We Ole Employees nick named that Bldg "The White House" cuz that's where all of the executive decisions are made.
One side of the Bldg is all School Dist the other side is Borough Employees smashed together like a Japanese Subway. Very crowded.
SPW

Happy_Lady
22
Points
Happy_Lady 01/31/13 - 08:57 am
0
0
No vacancies...

I believe Skyview High School will become a second middle school, so there won't be any "vacant" building. It doesn't actually state that in the article, but from other things I've seen/heard, that is the plan. SoHi will be the sole high school, and the there will be two middle schools (7-9th grades), SMS and the Skyview building.

Mariner
148
Points
Mariner 02/02/13 - 03:44 pm
0
0
Raoulduke

Most schools' bonds have been paid in full. Schools don't pay taxes. The immediate burden would be the cost of maintaining the basic property. The Borough owns the buildings and could consider leasing.

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