Kenai schools face threat of closure

Posted: Monday, February 21, 2000

SOLDOTNA - The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is looking at a $3 million shortfall that may eventually force the closure of several schools.

The school district is facing a severe drop in student enrollment, and therefore funding. Administrators are proposing cutting the school district's $76 million budget by some $2.8 million.

Teachers, coaches, nurses and librarians would be removed, funding for school supplies would be reduced and student sports fees would be increased, officials said. More than 16 jobs may be eliminated while others might be re-categorized, school district officials said.

Seward Middle/High School stands to lose at least two teachers, some assistant coaches and funding for activities, such as band and art, administrators said.

But the district still is searching for about $252,000 in savings. That money is not expected to come from closed schools: district administrators have said no schools will be closed next year. But administrators are forming a committee scheduled to meet next month that will consider future closures, assistant superintendent Patrick Hickey said.

``We don't have any schools slated for closure next year, but (consolidating) Seward and Moose Pass is something to examine,'' Hickey told the Peninsula Clarion.

That idea boiled to the surface at a public hearing on district finances held at Seward High School last week. The meeting prompted several tense exchanges between parents and administrators.

Closing Moose Pass Elementary probably would have the same controversial effect. The community rallied against the idea when it was proposed during the economic slowdown of the 1980s.

``That was one of the most politically active times here,'' said Ralph Steeves, Moose Pass principal. ``The public sentiment in this community is very strong against it.''

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