Originally published in the Peninsula Clarion

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones announced the school district’s preliminary FY 2020 budget at a special Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting Thursday.

Jones said the budget is based on status quo flat funding from the state using the base student allocation, last year’s one-time funding appropriated by the Legislature and a request for maximum funding from the borough.

Last April, the preliminary budget passed by the school board allocated over $142 million in general fund revenue across the district.

On a state level, the district has been operating under the assumption of flat funding from the base student allocation of nearly $6,000 per student from the Foundation Funding Formula, totaling just under $80 million in state funding.

The school board meeting was planned after Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced his proposed budget. The district would face a loss of more than $22 million if Dunleavy’s proposed budget passes. The school board will formally introduce their budget at the April 1 meeting.

“It’s a unique year,” Jones said at the meeting.

At the borough level, the district is asking for about $52 million. The borough is required by law to contribute nearly $29 million at least.

“It’s a big ask, but we’re doing that so we can present this status quo budget — as far as programs and facilities that we deliver … across the peninsula,” Jones said.

About 30 percent of the district’s budget comes from the borough, while about 69 percent comes from the state, Jones said.

“We won’t really know until the end of June what’s going to happen at the legislative and the governor level,” Jones said.

After Jones gave his budget update, the next hour was devoted to public comment, which was dominated by educators, staff, parents and Anchor Point community members who were speaking in opposition to the potential closure of Chapman School. The district listed six schools that could be closed or consolidated should the governor’s budget pass, Chapman included.

Dustin Poindexter grew up in Anchor Point. His father attended Chapman School, he attended Chapman School and now his children attend.

“I love this state,” Poindexter said. “I love my little town. But this potential budget cut, and this body’s potential actions have my wife and I talking about leaving to a state that prioritizes education. We would have to leave our family and everything we know behind.”

At the end of his testimony, Poindexter asked to take a selfie with the school board and with borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

“I am a millennial, so I would like to get a selfie with all of you,” Poindexter said. “Now I have something to show my children about who shuttered their school’s doors, their opportunities, or who helped them succeed.”

Summer Birch, a parent of a student at Chapman School, said her family chose Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula for her son to grow up in because “it was the kind of place we wanted to be.”

“From the first day (Chapman School) has become a second home,” Birch said.

Conrad Woodhead, the principal of Chapman School, gave an emotional public comment about the school being the heart of the Anchor Point community.

“It’s been frustrating to watch just what the proposed budget has done to our community,” Woodhead said. “I’m really proud of our folks. I think you get a sense of just how important our building is to our community.”

School board member Dan Castimore said he hasn’t heard from anyone representing the other five schools on the potential closure list, which include McNeil Canyon School in Homer, Moose Pass School in Moose Pass, Nikiski Middle-High School in Nikiski, Seward Middle School in Seward and Soldotna Prep in Soldotna.

“It means one of two things,” Castimore said. “It means people at the other locations don’t think we’re serious, and if that’s the case I would implore you to consider that we are very serious. Also if nobody knows those communities care, that’s certainly going to have an impact.”

The board will see the district’s budget on April 1 at the school board meeting.

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