Consolidation, PTR top school board agenda

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2003

Many of the issues facing the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will receive attention tonight, as the school board meets to discuss consolidation, cocurricular activities and class sizes, among other things.

The board will meet for a number of work sessions this afternoon, followed by the general meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Borough Building.

Meeting schedule

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education will meet today at the Borough Build-ing, 148 N. Binkley St. in Soldotna, with the agenda as follows:

1:30 p.m. -- Board member mentoring work session

2 p.m. -- Audit report work session

2:30 p.m. -- Seward Middle School schematics work session

3 p.m. -- Cocurricular activities work session

3:30 p.m. -- Consoli-dation work session

4:30 p.m. -- Staff formula work session

5 p.m. -- Budget planning work session

5:30 p.m. -- Telecon-ference with legislative delegation

7:30 p.m. -- General meeting, with action on staffing formulas and the cocurricular activities proposal.

Among the scheduled topics of discussion is a status update on the preliminary consolidation report, issued last January. The report provides a number of ideas for consolidating schools across the district in an effort to provide more comprehensive programs for students and to save the district money. One of the ideas already is going into effect, with Nikiski Elementary School scheduled to close this spring and consolidate with North Star Elementary School. Other ideas in the report, however, have drawn fire from community members who say they want to keep the nearly 40 small schools in the district as they are. District administration is bringing the report back to the school board today seeking direction on what to do next. No board action is planned.

Several other issues will receive action by the board.

Board members are scheduled to discuss a plan to ask the borough assembly to set up a one-year special revenue fund for cocurricular activities and to take action on the proposal during the general meeting.

If the proposal passes, the board will ask the borough assembly to provide a $1.4 million grant to fund cocurricular activities during the 2004-05 school year. It also will ask the assembly to place an initiative on next fall's boroughwide ballot asking voters to support a .5 mill property tax, the equivalent of $50 on every $100,000 of property, to continue funding sports and other activities for students.

The proposal is the result of several months of work by a cocurricular task force, comprised of board and borough assembly members, as well as district administrators and borough legal representatives, who collaborated to come up with alternative funding sources for the student activities program. The program consistently has been under threat as the district's budget gets tighter each year, and board members said they wanted to find a way to continue the programs without pitting cocurricular activities against traditional education expenses, such as teachers.

Yet another high-profile issue on the table today is the staffing formulas for the 2004-05 school year. The staffing formulas are ratios to determine how many teachers, administrators, counselors, secretaries and custodians are hired on a per-student basis. Among the most debated formula is the certified staffing formula, also known at the pupil-teacher ratio, or PTR, which essentially determines class sizes.

Last year, board members increased PTR in the district in an effort to save money. However, both the board and the community has expressed an unwillingness to do so again, despite the currently estimated $5 million shortfall in the 2004-05 school year. The board is scheduled to take action on the formulas tonight.

Also on the agenda are work sessions on the district's annual audit, the schematic plans for the new Seward Middle School and the fiscal year 2005 budget planning process, as well as board action on a number of routine matters.

Work sessions begin at 1:30 p.m. today, followed by the general meeting at 7:30 p.m. All work sessions and meetings will be held in the assembly chambers at the Borough Building, 148 N. Binkley St. in Soldotna, and are open to the public. In general, work sessions are listen-only, while public testimony is taken during the general meeting.

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