This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
A $30 million bond package proposal is in the works to tackle nearly 20 different deferred maintenance projects in school buildings across the peninsula, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien announced at Monday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting.
The district is working closely with the Kenai Peninsula Borough on a $29,940,000 bond proposal that will fund facility projects districtwide, including a new school in Kachemak Selo, O’Brien said at Monday’s meeting.
O’Brien said the funding would address “many concerns” about buildings in the district, such as facilities at the end of their useful life, critical component replacements, safety concerns, necessary repairs and some energy saving measures.
About a quarter of the district’s schools are 50 years or older, while 80% of schools are more than 30 years old.
Debbie Carey, a school board member, said at Monday’s meeting that she hopes the package sees support from communities across the district.
“If you look at the average age of our buildings, they are getting very old,” Carey said. “You can’t expect them to continue without doing maintenance on them so the bond package is going to be really important moving forward.”
There are 19 different deferred maintenance projects the draft bond package would cover, according to the draft bond list document.
On the central peninsula, Kenai Middle School is looking at a kitchen and serving area remodel, according to the draft list. Kenai Middle School, built in 1968, holds three lunch periods serving 200 students a day. The estimated cost of the remodel is $750,000.
Several schools need heating control replacements. Kenai Central High School’s control needs replacement is estimated to cost $872,500. Nikiski Middle/High School’s replacement is estimated to cost $593,395. Skyview Middle School’s replacement is estimated to cost $591,360.
Nikiski North Star is in need of a metal roof replacement, costing $3,422,902. Notes in the draft bond list say that water penetrated the Nikiski North Star siding and froze last winter.
Another project in the draft list is a $2 million Soldotna School Facilities renovation, which would “address building issues.” The list did not say which schools in Soldotna this project would pertain to.
Sterling Elementary is in need of window and siding replacement, costing $417,750. According to the draft list, the east wing of the school was constructed first in 1961.
Many of the projects in the draft bond package are focused on the southern peninsula. Chapman School in Anchor Point is also in need of a window and siding replacement, with an estimated cost of $308,580.
West Homer Elementary needs a new wall on its north side. According to the draft document, the north concrete wall “started allowing moisture penetration into the building.” Water has caused damage to surfaces and has contributed to mold growth, the list said.
The $659,583 project would install a secondary wall over the exterior surface to prevent water intrusion.
Ninilchik School needs its windows and boiler replaced, costing $201,017 and $413,012, respectively. Nanwalek, south of Homer, needs its upstairs windows replaced and its kitchen expanded to the tune of $1,230,214.
Homer High School has two projects on the list, including a roof replacement and a heating control replacement. The high school’s roof replacement has a $8,271,734 price tag. According to the draft document, the original roof was installed in 1985, is no longer in warranty and is “deteriorating.” Current attic ventilation in the school “has proven to be inadequate” and the internal gutter system is “no longer functioning to protect the building from leakage,” the draft document said about Homer High School.
Notes in the draft list say the borough may apply for a grant to address the roof replacement. Componenets of the school’s heating control system, installed in 1985, are failing and do not meet standards, the draft document said. The heating system replacement will cost $900,000.
The draft bond package also includes the $5,390,000 local match needed to build a new school at the head of Kachemak Bay, in the village of Kachemak Selo. The village petitioned for a new school nearly a decade ago.
According to the draft document, the buildings used as the village’s schools are in disrepair and out of code. A $5.3 million bond package to build a new school in the village was failed by borough voters in 2018. The $5.3 million is the local match required by the borough to access more than $10 million from the state to help construct a new school in the community of Kachemak Selo. Those state funds expire next summer.
School board member Zen Kelly said he was “super excited” about the package because the bond money would fund matches for state grants.
“This bond proposal is taking advantage of the grant funding the state has given us for the Kachemak Selo School project,” Kelly said. “It is the best deal we are ever going to get in building a new school, and a new school is needed at the head of the bay.”
On the eastern peninsula, the draft bond package includes a project at Seward Middle School for interior and exterior repairs “required to preserve building integrity,” costing $857,314. The building was damaged in a 2016 earthquake.
The school in Cooper Landing is also in need of a window and siding replacement, costing $277,550.
Across the inlet in Tyonek, Tebughna School, built in 1966, is in need of a total window replacement costing $832,500.
School board member Matthew Morse said at Monday’s meeting that it can be hard to get community members on board with bond packages, but that the district has critical maintenance needs.
The bond package is still in draft form.