FAIRBANKS - Enrollment applications already are coming in for the new Nenana Student Living Center, even though construction of the 96-person boarding home isn't expected to be completed until early August.
With 49 applications received and counting, Superintendent Terry Bentley is confident the boarding home will be full by the time the school year starts on Aug. 27. The living center will house students attending Nenana High School a few blocks away.
"We have accepted some and we are expecting more applications each and every day," he said. "We are in great shape right now."
The district is planning to admit 88 students this year, Bentley said.
Applications are coming from all over the state, including Fairbanks, Anchorage and Wasilla, as well as villages and Southeast.
Students' reasons for wanting to come to Nenana vary, Bentley said. Some students are from large schools and want the smaller classes offered at Nenana High School. He said class sizes in the city's only high school, which now has about 50 students, will be about 15-20 students per class. The district is hiring a few more teachers to deal with the influx of students.
Some students from smaller schools are looking for the courses a larger school can offer, Bentley said. Some wish to transfer from the Mt. Edgecumbe boarding school in Sitka, because Nenana is closer to home, he said, while others want to get a taste of college life.
Bentley said applications are being evaluated based on academics, attendance, parent support, teacher assessment and several other factors.
Earlier this year, the district hired a contractor, First Alaska Management and Marketing, to promote the boarding home throughout the state.
Valerie Mundt, a consultant for First Alaska, said ads for the living center have appeared on major television networks, mostly in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau. The marketing effort also included letters to tribal administrators and school counselors, as well as radio and newspaper advertising, she said.
If the district were to accept all 49 applicants it has received, it would have more students than needed to make the payments on the building. The district needs at least 44 students enrolled in order to make the $300,000 yearly loan payment on the building.
The city has taken out a 20-year $4.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build the boarding home, according to Nenana Mayor Bob Knight.