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Board bumps a new schools for K-Selo to No. 1

Posted: August 9, 2014 - 8:51pm

A new building for Kachemak Selo school has knocked Kenai Middle School asbestos removal and office remodel project out of the No. 1 spot on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Six Year Plan for fiscal years 2015-2021.

The KPBSD Board of Education voted to revision to the plan it approved in March at its Monday night meeting.

The approval for the revision to the plan was presented as a laydown item through Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater.

According to a memo from Atwater to the board, the asbestos removal as well as the Homer High School re-roofing project, which was originally listed as the No. 2 priority on the KPBSD list, ranked as No. 33 and No. 44, respectively, on the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development list. The low state rankings make the projects unlikely to be funded, according to the memo.

The memo states that moving the K-Selo new school project to the No. 1 position gives it an additional nine points.

Board member Sunni Hilts said the project is large for a “very special kind of school” and that the board and district is hopeful for a grant.

“We don’t get a lot of our (projects) considered (for grants) because we take good care of our facilities and we just have such a really good district and a good relationship with the borough,” Hilts said. “But we can’t build a school without help so definitely moving it to the top priority was important.”

Board member Dan Castimore said he didn’t support the shuffle because it ranked the new school above asbestos removal at Kenai Middle and it hasn’t been very long since the body approved the plan.

“I’m not sure that moving (the new school) up there just for the fact that we’ll gain points on a grant application is really the best choice and that’s why we moved it,” Castimore said.

Castimore said his understanding, however, is that those nine points are the difference between the possibility of receiving a grant and not getting any funding.

“But just because we moved it doesn’t guarantee it,” he said. “But I think had we not moved it, it would have pretty much killed it at least for this round.”

The K-Selo school is estimated to cost $16 million and is categorized as a B grant — unhoused students. The district has been leasing three buildings for the school. The buildings are in disrepair and out of code compliance, according to the project description.

The Kenai Middle asbestos removal and office remodel is priced at $7.46 million and falls under the A, health and life safety, grant category. The Homer High re-roof project is estimated to cost $5.6 million and is a C grant category project — structure protection of existing schools.

“If we really feel that (a new K-Selo school) is more valuable than the asbestos removal at Kenai Middle, I’m not sure that sends a very good message,” Castimore said at the meeting.

The board approved the revisions to the plan with a 5-3 vote. Board members Castimore, Bill Holt and Joe Arness voted against the changes.

By the time Arness was called on to vote, the revision already had enough support to pass. He said his vote was more of a means of protest.

“Frankly, had it not been passing when it came to my turn to vote, I would have voted yes just to get the state to consider it,” Arness said. “But the way that it fell out, I could vote sort of my conscience and still have it be on that state list.”

He said based on where the K-Selo school is located, within 1.5 miles of Razdolna and Voznesenka schools, the district should consider one school for the three communities.

The three projects as well as Homer High fire alarm upgrade and Chapmen Elementary window and siding replacement are all prioritized for FY15.

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

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