Community School change will create stronger partnership

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2005

Like it or not, life is about change. Few people, however, eagerly embrace change because it takes us out of our comfort zone.

Nevertheless, the change being proposed for the community school programs in Soldotna and Homer makes sense and should be eagerly embraced. No change likely will mean the death of the much-loved programs. The change, which moves oversight of the programs from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to the Soldotna and Kachemak Bay branches of Kenai Peninsula College, will mean the continuation of the classes and very likely an expansion of offerings.

The change is planned for July 1. Those involved believe the switch will be virtually invisible to the community at large. And that's the way it should be.

The new partnership makes sense for lots of reasons, primarily because part of the mission of the college in promoting life-long learning is precisely what the the community school programs are about. That life-long learning can include classes in academic, vocational and recreational pursuits, but the bottom line is the classes are designed to enrich individual students' lives as well as the community at large. That kind of learning makes for healthier and happier citizens and more vibrant communities. The change also will allow the community school programs to work more closely with peninsula business and industry officials to provide training that best meets their needs.

There's another reason the switch makes sense. A lot of residents just haven't tapped into the opportunities available to them through KPC. Having the college assume oversight of the community school programs will strengthen the connection between residents and the college. It's one of those win-win situations.

The switch also makes sense for economic reasons. While the state used to provide funding for the program, it no longer does, and the expenses of the program now outdistance the revenue the program generates. The school district is not in a position to absorb the cost.

The school district, however, will continue to provide support for the program by offering space for the programs' offices and classes. Funding from the cities of Soldotna and Homer for the community school programs will continue to be necessary.

The switch in oversight creates a stronger partnership for the programs — a partnership between the college, the school district, the cities and residents — to ensure the program's survival.

There's no need to put any obstacles up to this change. If embraced, it's one of those changes that can eventually enhance what's being offered now, and that's to everyone's benefit.

T-200 race reminder

winter to be enjoyed

There are some special visitors on the central Kenai Peninsula this weekend: the mushers and dogs now running in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race and its companion race, the T-100.

Of course, quite a few of the racers aren't visitors, they're hometown heroes, including Mitch Seavey, who won the 2004 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race; Paul Gebhardt, Lance Mackey and Dean and Tim Osmar — to name a few of the peninsula mushers participating. Such mushing stars as Dee Dee Jonrowe and Jeff King also are running the race.

This is the 21st year the race has been held — and it just keeps getting better because of the dedicated volunteers who make it happen. Having this Iditarod qualifying race in our own back yard is most definitely a perk to living on the peninsula.

Being held in conjunction with the Peninsula Winter Games, many of which continue today, the T-200 and associated activities give residents unmatched opportunities to get out and about this weekend and embrace the winter season.

Fishing may be great in July, but nothing depicts Alaska's uniqueness more than a competitive sled dog race, hockey games, ice races and skiing — which are among the events scheduled for today.

The weekend of wintertime events makes a powerful statement about the season: Winter isn't to be avoided. Summer will be here soon enough. The more we enjoy whatever season we're in, the more we'll be connected to this place where we live.

Hats off to all the individual volunteers, civic groups and businesses who are making the T-200 and the Peninsula Winter Games possible. Events like these are among the things that make the peninsula a special place to live.

A special welcome to all the mushers and visitors here for these special events. May your time on the peninsula be safe and fun-filled and may you enjoy the best of the peninsula's winter season.

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