Port Lions and Karluk may see their schools close next year

Kodiak High School. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly met with the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s board of education to discuss the district’s budget for the fiscal year 2019 and some major cuts it might have to make.

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The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and the Borough’s board of education recently had a joint work session where they discussed closing the schools in Port Lions and Karluk.

Both schools have less than ten students, which means each school didn’t receive funding of upwards of $300,000 from the state and the federal government. They were kept open this year, but the school district’s projecting in its preliminary budget for next year that it’ll have to close both schools.

The district’s superintendent Larry LeDoux says schools are important to rural communities. He thinks if the district has to close the schools that doesn’t mean the buildings have to be boarded up though.

“Closing a school is very traumatic for a community. A lot of times it’s the death nail of a community. So, given the fact that it’s going to cost the borough money that what we’re suggesting and what has been brought to me is to create a community partnership to keep the facility open.”

The borough owns both of the schools and even if they’re closed it will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to keep the buildings in good shape. LeDoux thinks the borough should find a partner within the communities to help keep the buildings open and operational. The school district partnered with the community of Danger Bay earlier this year to do just that when the district officially closed its school.

Danger Bay owned the school building and agreed to allow students to have access to it free of charge if the school district provided an educational aid, which it did. LeDoux thinks a setup resembling this one could work in Port Lions and Karluk. It would allow the district to provide service for students and keep an important part of the community open. Assemblywoman Julie Kavanaugh says she’d like to know more about this strategy.

“I’m very interested in this Larry and I’m glad you brought it up tonight. I think it’s crucial to keep these villages whole, basically. And also attract students and families to stay there.”

Borough manager Michael Powers said he heard enough interest from the assembly to begin researching who the borough could partner with to keep the school buildings open even if the district closes the school.

Board of Education President Bob Foy says the budget cuts the school district is having to make are dramatic.

“The fact that we are talking about closing schools is the visual on where we’re at with our budget. It’s not fat, it’s real. Because in the past we’ve combined schools and lump kids and find ways of making this happen. Not only did we close one this year, but we’re very really considering the closure two next year. So, that  needs to be the take on the message of where we’re at with our funding as a district and a borough.”

Superintendent LeDoux says the school district has reached out to Port Lions and Karluk about their schools possibly closing next year. He says community members have been very understanding. The borough assembly and the school district will continue to discuss the possible closures and the district’s budget for next year.

 

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