Education board weighs options in reconfiguring school space

Consolidation talks nearing conclusion

Posted: Friday, February 02, 2007

The Kenai Peninsula Borough school board will discuss several options regarding the configuration of schools in Kenai during a work session prior to Monday’s meeting.

The work session is part of the continuing Kenai Conversation, a process initiated by the school board to address issues related to a shrinking student population and increased educational options, particularly the growth of charter schools, within Kenai.

“We’ve taken a lot of input. The board has asked for a recommendation. What we have is several options that rose to the surface through the process, and analysis. Now we’ll see what the board has to say about those options,” said Donna Peterson, district superintendent.

Monday’s work session, slated to start at 3:30 p.m. at the Borough Building in Soldotna, is open to the public; however, it is not a time for public testimony.

“The public can comment at any time during the regular meeting” at 7 p.m., Peterson said. “Monday’s work session is an opportunity for the board to talk amongst themselves and ask questions of the administration.”

The options being presented by Peterson have been developed based on meetings with school principals, site councils, parent-teacher groups and academic policy boards, written public comment and oral comment taken during a public meeting in November, and work session input from school board members.

Currently in Kenai, Sears Elementary houses kindergarten through second grade, Mountain View Elementary houses third through fifth grade, and sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders attend Kenai Middle School. Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, a kindergarten though fourth grade district charter school, shares space at Sears and has two classrooms in the Willow Street mall.

Sears and Mountain View have low enrollments, and projections do not indicate an increase in those numbers in the foreseeable future.

In her memo to the board, Peterson listed four criteria categories used to consider each option: the adequacy of each building for both the number of students and their age; enrollment projections and demographics; financial considerations, including the cost of maintenance and cost benefits of consolidation; and academic program considerations for each school.

The options Peterson will present to the board include:

· Option 1 — Configuring Mountain View as a kindergarten though fourth-grade school; moving fifth through eighth grade to the middle school and housing Kaleidoscope in the Sears building;

· Option 2 — Keeping kindergarten, first and second grades at Sears, third, fourth and fifth grades at Mountain View, and splitting Kaleidoscope between the two campuses following the same configuration;

· Option 3 — Merging Sears and Mountain View into a kindergarten through fifth-grade building and housing Kaleidoscope in the Sears building;

· Option 4 — Housing Kaleidoscope in Mountain View; and

· Option 5 — Combining Sears and Mountain View for kindergarten through fifth grade, moving Kenai Alternative High School to Sears, and splitting Kaleidoscope between Kenai Alternative's current space and the school’s Willow Street location.

At one point, Peterson said, as many as a dozen scenarios were being considered. More than 1,000 individuals provided input during the process.

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas,” Peterson said.

Peterson noted in her memo that every option has advantages and disadvantages. Option 1 might be the approach the district would take if it were starting from scratch, and it falls in line with most written and oral public comments. According to Peterson’s memo, the third option would be best for students involved.

Depending on school board input during Monday’s work session, Peterson will make a recommendation to the board at its Feb. 19 meeting. Following that recommendation, the board will take public comments and make its decision.

Peterson noted in her memo that a consensus decision was not reached during the Kenai Conversation, but said the process has been worthwhile nonetheless.

“It hasn’t always been a comfortable conversation, but it’s been a quality, education conversation,” Peterson said.

More information on the Kenai Conversation, as well as the rest of the agenda fro Monday’s meeting, can be found on the district Web site at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us. Follow the link to the school board page and click on “Board Meetings” on the menu.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@ peninsulaclarion.com.



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