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Interior community seeks two more students

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2003

CENTRAL (AP) Most rural Alaska schools have to work hard at recruiting teachers. Central has a teacher but lacks students.

The Steese Highway community a hundred air miles northeast of Fairbanks, faced with a possible school closure due to low enrollment, has taken out an advertisement for parents of two potential scholars.

Community members chipped in and took out an ad in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: ''Are you looking for a nice quiet community in which to raise your children? Move to Central, Alaska.''

Becky Hendrickson, chairwoman of the local school advisory committee, said the idea came up at a recent community meeting.

''We thought we would give it a shot,'' Hendrickson said.

Last year, Far North School had 11 students, but a family with four children moved away. One new kindergartner brings the tally up to eight students.

That's not enough for the school to receive state funding on its own. For that they would need at least 10.

''We just need ... one family with two kids to move to Central,'' Hendrickson said.

She and other residents listed Central's advantages: A close-knit community, peace and quiet, an outstanding teacher, small classes, plenty of space to play.

''It is great for family life,'' Hendrickson said.

State law doesn't require the Yukon Flats School District to close the school. It only says that it will not be funded as a separate school. Instead, its students will be counted with the next smallest school, according to Eddy Jeans, school finance manager for the state Department of Education.

The school's teacher, Marcy Jasper, says it's likely enrollment will jump back up. ''Because our community fluctuates so much, we will have 17 to 20 one year and around 10 the next year,'' she said. ''That's the history of the school population.''

Jasper also noted that Central is home to several preschool-age children whose parents are planning to send them to school in Central. But the state funding laws offer no grace period, said Darroll Hargraves, Yukon Flats School District superintendent.

While the decision to close the school lies with the school board, he would recommend doing so if enrollment comes in below 10 students. The district simply can't afford to subsidize the $250,000 cost of the school, he said.



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