School closures up for discussion at Dunleavy's first budget event
Six Kenai Peninsula Schools would be consolidated and closed if Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget plan is approved, according to school officials.
A budget document from the Alaska Department of Education & Early Education, provided by the Kenai Peninsula School District, shows the district's projected combined reduction for fiscal year 2020 is just under $21 million.
Dunleavy and his team planned to address those budget cuts at a presentation Monday night at the Cannery Lodge in Kenai. The event was the first in a week-long series of budget talks across the state.
In a release to news outlets, parents and teachers Friday, the school district offered a "sobering look" at what the district would have to cut in order to meet the governor's proposed reduction to education, including:
• Schools slated for closure:
- Chapman School
- McNeil Canyon School
- Moose Pass School
- Nikiski Middle-High School
- Seward Middle School
- Soldotna Prep School
• Pool closures in Kenai, Homer, Ninilichik, Seldovia, Seward, Soldotna
• Theater closures in Kenai, Homer, Nikiski, Seward, Soldotna
• Increase in Student-Teacher ratio, including:
- 7 more students in high school classes
- 6 more students in middle school classes
- 2 more students to elementary school classes
• Elimination of all middle and high school sports programs, and extra-curricular activities, including music, yearbook, ASAA and KPSAA activities
The district asked members of the community to "advocate for a realistic state fiscal plan" and to share positive stories about education at Monday's event.
"We've been cutting. We've cut millions and millions over the last several years and used our savings," Pegge Erkeneff, the communications liason for KPB School District said. "There was no place left to go than to look at these drastic measures."
Meanwhile, the proposed budget cuts have placed the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce at odds with the district. In a Facebook Live broadcast on the topic earlier this month, Pierce asked educators to "embrace these changes."
"I believe, as a community, if we embrace the changes and accept the fact that we're going to be a part of the solution to the overall problem in the state of Alaska, we'll do a better job," he said.
According to online event registration, Monday's budget presentation hosted by Americans for Prosperity was "sold out." Anyone who wished to attend was prompted to join a wait list. KTVA reached out to Americans for Prosperity to request information about the number of attendees registered for the event, but has not received a response.
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