Students in Kachemak Selo, a small Russian Old Believer village near the head of Kachemak Bay, have been dealing with deteriorating school conditions for several years, but the community is another step closer to a new school.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly introduced an ordinance Monday that would ask voters this fall to approve spending up to $3.5 million on a new facility.
Assembly member Kelly Cooper told fellow assembly members that this has been a long time coming.
“They have been housed in a school that is not up to standards in any way shape or form, and the community has been very patient with us as we work through the process of getting state funds for that,” Cooper added. “We were approved for state funds, and there is a timeline on that where they will expire. So, timing is of the essence on this one in particular for this year.”
The state awarded the borough nearly $9 million for the project in 2016, but the borough is required to provide a 35-percent match in order to spend that money.
Finding those funds has been a challenge, which is why Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce wants to ask voters to approve issuing bonds for the facility.
But state funding is set to expire in July of 2019, which gives the borough one shot at obtaining voter approval. Kachemak Selo Principal Tim Whip reminded assembly members of exactly that.
“The school is deteriorated to the point where it is an unsafe condition for students. Something has to happen, and I would like to see this bond go forward,” Whip said.
The borough has been working towards a new school in the village since 2012, but it did explore alternatives.
Connecting Kachemak Selo to other roads in the area and creating a single school for all three Russian villages at the head of Kachemak Bay were both deemed unfeasible before borough turned its attention to building a new school.
The borough worked with Kachemak Selo residents over the winter to make the final site selection for the school. That land is privately owned and would need to be purchased. The site would also require a road to be built in order to access the school from the village.
The project’s estimated price tag is about $12.3 million. If approved by the assembly, the ordinance would allow voters to weigh in during the regular election on Oct. 2. The assembly will hold a public hearing on the bond proposition on June 5.