Thousands of applicants respond to the village of Karluk’s ad for cost-free living

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Fishing, camping, kayaking, and a year of all expenses paid living; that’s off a poster from the Karluk Tribal Council that went viral last week. They’re looking to pay two families with four children each to move to the village in an effort to get state funding and re-establish a school. 

Within a week, between four and five thousand people responded to the poster. Kathryn Reft is the Karluk Tribal Council’s secretary and treasurer. She said they never could have anticipated the response.

Karluk Spit and village of Karluk. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We just figured we tried to do something like this just to see if we get any kind of attention,” she said. “We never knew it was gonna blow up to be this huge!”

The Native Village of Karluk is on the southwest end of Kodiak Island. The village has just 37 year-round residents. There’s two children there now, but villages need at least 10 students in order for the State of Alaska to fund a school. That’s why the Tribe is looking for two families with four children each to move there.

Reft said the remote village has been looking to grow for a while now. 

“We had our feelers out there,” she said. “We tried going through agencies and we just couldn’t find any interest and then somebody brought up ‘Why don’t we get a poster out there?’ and that’s what we did.”

The Tribe has heard from families across the country as far as Florida and even internationally from Canada and the Philippines about its ad. 

“Our main focus right now is to have the 10 students here in Karluk,” she said.

Karluk’s school closed back in 2018 due to low enrollment and continued to dwindle since.

The Kodiak Island Borough has kept maintaining the former school building by paying for its heat and electricity. Borough staff recently visited the building to assess its condition, and with minor maintenance, it could reopen and host classes again.

In order to get more students, the Tribe is willing to pay housing, utilities, moving expenses, and even a food stipend for a full year. For the right family, they’ll also train them for jobs to become a more permanent fixture in the community. 

Cyndy Mika is the Kodiak Island Borough School District superintendent. She said the district was caught off-guard by the poster but is open to helping the village. 

“If they make those 10 students, we’ll have to do something,” Mika said. “But at this point, it’s going to be very difficult staffing at this late of a date and it’s not part of this budget at all.”

KIBSD struggled to fill rural positions last year, and faced huge budget cuts last month. 

Mika said she understands the struggle Karluk is facing without a school. 

“I know that the villages need schools and that the schools are what makes them be able to grow in population,” she said. “It’s really hard to grow if you don’t have a school for your students or your children out there.” 

The clock is ticking, though. The state counts student populations for schools in October. Reft, the Tribe’s secretary and treasurer, said they hope to bring new families soon. 

“We’re going to try to get families here before the end of August, before the school year, have them settled in their house, and ready for school,” she said. 

The Tribal Council will start looking over applications next week.

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