Board approves recommended site for new K-Selo school

With the approval of a recommended site, the village of Kachemak Selo is one step closer to seeing a new schoolhouse. The next step is funding.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved a site for a proposed new Kachemak Selo School at its Monday meeting.

Selecting a site will improve the chances of receiving grant funding from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development for the estimated $16 million project based on a 18,599-square-foot-building, said Kevin Lyon, director of the borough Capital Projects Department.

“Because we’ve found a site, so obviously our plan is more formed so we’ll get … additional planning points,” Lyon said.

Lyon plans to apply for a DEED grant that, if awarded, would fund 70 percent of the project costs. The remaining 30 percent could be bonded or paid for with other funds.

The project is currently ranked No. 3 in the district’s six-year plan for fiscal years 2015-2021. If the project is ranked higher, it will get more points in the grant process, Lyon said.

A school site selection committee designated two sites for evaluation, which considered land use, construction cost and maintenance and operation factors. Both board president Joe Arness and member Dan Castimore served on the selection committee.

In memo to the board from the selection committee, the recommended site shows advantages in construction costs and proximity to students, but shows modest advantages to the alternative site in land use and maintenance and operation costs.

Kachemak Selo School Principal Andrew Rothenberger said the approved site selection will make village residents happy.

“As long as we’re in motion, things will move forward,” he said.

Three residential-type buildings make up the existing kindergarten through twelfth-grade school, which had a total enrollment of 61 in 2014. According to the district’s Kachemak Selo School Educational Specification document, the buildings are in poor conditions, have health and safety compliancy issues, maintenance and structural issues and poor energy efficiency.

With two absent board members, the body approved the site by a 5-2 vote.

Arness and Castimore voted against the site approval.

According to a June memo from Superintendant Steve Atwater, in 2009, he introduced the idea of having one school for Kachemak Selo, Razdolna and Voznesenka students. Properly equipped vehicles can only drive to Kachemak Selo via one steep, switchback road. In August 2012, the school board approved spending $50,000 for a feasibility study to build a new road to Kachemak Selo to transport students from the village up the hill. The study showed that a road to Kachemak Selo was not economically feasible.

“I’m not convinced that we vetted all of our options with transportation,” Castimore said at a Monday afternoon work session. … “We have three schools within 1.5 miles.”

He said from what he understands the Razdolna and Voznesenka schools are also in “pretty bad shape.”

He said he doesn’t understand why the district isn’t considering constructing and running a tram. While it would cost money to construct and someone would have to operate it, he said the state currently reimburses travel costs.

“At the end of the day, we’re in a better situation if we have one school than three,” he said.

At the work session, board member Sunni Hilts said the Kachemak Selo students are excited about the possibility of a new school.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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