Iditarod season brings big boost to small school in Nikolai
Tuesday was another day on the trail for most mushers, but it was pure excitement for the kids at checkpoint number six.
Nikolai is the smallest school in the Iditarod Area School District. With just eleven students, it barely meets the state minimum to keep its doors open.
For the teachers, the building is the key to keeping the tiny town alive. As for the kids inside, Iditarod season is their favorite time of year.
"I like watching them enjoy themselves. Their face lights up, you know, when they come," said Josephine Guynes, who teaches pre-school through first grade students.
Dozens of mushers and their dogs made their way into Nikolai early Tuesday morning, which meant a field trip for the students to the official checkpoint to welcome them.
"We’ve been studying a little bit of the history of the Iditarod and they’ve making signs and talking about the mushers," said Tara Wiggins, the Principal and one of three teachers at the school.
Originally from Indiana, Wiggins says she and her nine year-old nephew, Xavier, have decided to stay.
"He’s decided he loves it here too, and he’s told me he wants to live here until he’s an old, old man," Wiggins said. "I definitely think if we didn’t have all the kids, it would die off quite a bit."
As for Xavier, he’s been doing his homework on the iditarod dogs.
"They’re racing, they’re coming in and they’re feeding their dogs," the third grader said. "A lot of them rest for a little while."
Joshua Nikolai is focused on feeding the people that come through. At fourteen, he’s the town’s oldest student.
"It kind of gives me something to do," Nikolai said of the race.
In a place where people are few, the Iditarod is a rare chance to mingle with mushers, meet someone new, and raise money for the students too.
Iditarod fans who come through spend money at "Tekone Cafe," the cafeteria restaurant. All proceeds go to helping fund student activities.
Mushers are expected to pass through the school to eat and sleep through Wednesday morning.
Students will have a half day schedule at the school during that time.