This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
A proposed $30 million bond package to fix the Kenai Peninsula’s aging school buildings will be pushed to next year’s ballot.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Board of Education had pushed for the bond to be placed on this October’s municipal election ballot, and formally asked the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at the Feb. 4 school board meeting to place the proposal on the ballot.
However, due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, the borough and the district have agreed to push the bond off until the October 2021 election, Dave Jones, assistant superintendent for the district, said during a presentation at the June 2 assembly meeting.
“Our buildings are past the life that they were built to have,” Jones said at the assembly meeting. “We have a lot of work that needs to be done to bring them up to speed and to extend their lives longer.”
Jones said borough and district both agreed that because of the pandemic “the bond would fail.”
“Before COVID I think that was going to be a successful bond issue,” Jones said at the assembly meeting. “After COVID I think everybody has agreed with the consensus ‘if we put that bond issue out there it would fail.’”
The $29,940,000 bond proposal tackles 19 school projects that are considered a “priority and critical to maintaining key infrastructure for both community and educational needs,” a Feb. 4 school board resolution said.
About a quarter of the district’s schools are 50 years or older, while 80% of schools are more than 30 years old.
Identified projects span across the peninsula. There are two districtwide projects, one of which will address aged technology to ensure the “security challenges schools face today” and upgrade building automation controls to prevent system failures and reliable heating systems.
Building control systems are outdated and have “exceeded their useful life” at Kenai Central High School, Skyview Middle School and Nikiski Middle/High School, a Feb. 4 school board resolution said.
The exterior building envelope is failing at Chapman Elementary, Cooper Landing, West Homer Elementary, Nanwalek, Sterling Elementary and Tebughna School. Repair of the building envelope will extend the life of the facilities and reduce energy consumption, the resolution said.
Roofs at Homer High School and Nikiski North Star Elementary have reached the end of their useful life, the resolution said.
The biggest project will be the construction of a new school in Kachemak Selo, which will take advantage of more than $10 million in state funds, if the state will grant a deadline extension. Currently, the grant has a deadline of June 2021. District administration said they have reached out to the Department of Education and Early Development to see if the grant can be extended.
Educational improvement projects are needed at Kenai Middle School and Nanwalek School “to more adequately serve the student population,” the resolution said. According to the list of bond projects, these projects will replace failing windows at Nanwalek and enlarge the kitchens at Kenai Middle School and Nanwalek.
On the southern peninsula, the boiler and controls at Ninilchik School need to be replaced to provide for “efficiency and reliability,” the resolution said.
On the eastern peninsula, one project will address seismic repair for damage Seward Middle School sustained during an earthquake, which will “preserve the building integrity.”
Next year, the assembly will have the opportunity to place the bond package on the October 2021 ballot.