This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will be providing information to voters about the general obligation bond issue set to help pay for the new Kachemak-Selo School on their web platforms in the coming weeks.
The bonds would fund a new school for the remote Russian Old Believer village of Kachemak-Selo, about 30 miles west of Homer at the headwaters of Kachemak Bay.
The village petitioned the school board for a new facility in 2011. In 2016, the state appropriated approximately $10 million for construction of the school, but in order to proceed the borough must provide a match, which it intends to do through an approximately $5.5 million bond package. In June, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved a proposition to ask voters to approve those bonds on the Oct. 2 ballot.
The current school in Kachemak-Selo is made up of three borough-leased buildings and serves about 46 students. The district’s communications liaison, Pegge Erkeneff, said the school has deteriorated beyond useful capacity. The buildings are converted homes, and students and school district officials have said the buildings are unsafe and leak in the winter, among other issues.
One of the largest cost drivers comes from the remote nature of the village. The village sits at the bottom of a steep bluff only accessible by a dirt switchback trail, too narrow and steep for most vehicles to traverse. Erkeneff said a new road would not be built to accommodate potential school construction. The borough initially considered upgrading the road to borough standards but found it would be too expensive.
Some members of the public and assembly have expressed concern about the $16 million price tag for the school, given its remoteness and small student population. However, the size of the school is dictated by a state statute based on the number of students, and the borough does not have the flexibility to downsize the building. Shipping in materials is also expected to increase the cost.
The district and the borough will be providing information online, and the school district will be providing information through their social media accounts starting this week. The Board of Education will also have a work session regarding the bond prior to the October vote.
Superintendent Sean Dusek, Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and his chief of staff will be attending an Aug. 30 meeting at 3:30 p.m. in Kachemak-Selo to provide information with the community regarding the bond proposition.
For more information regarding the Kachemak-Selo School bond, visit http://www.kpb.us/kselo.