$65M bond package presented to board of education

The funds would tackle maintenance and repairs at district schools

Roughly $65.5 million worth of school projects are outlined in a proposed bond package that was presented to members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education on Monday.

Efforts to fund maintenance and repairs at school district facilities have been years in the making. The district last fall identified $420 million worth of maintenance, including $166 million worth of “critical needs.” Many of the projects represent deferred maintenance, or projects that have been put off.

KPBSD Director of Planning and Operations Kevin Lyon has said previously that where the district should be putting $6 million and $7 million into building maintenance annually, it’s been putting in about $1 million. He’s described the current maintenance problems as the result of the district “kicking the can down the road” and has presented his color-coded spreadsheet of needed maintenance to the district multiple times.

The proposed bond package represents a step toward addressing some of that maintenance.

“We just haven’t done anything for years and that’s what we have to go back to,” KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland said Monday. “This is kind of playing major catch-up in a lot of ways for what we need.”

The most expensive project on the list is the reconstruction of Soldotna Elementary School, which is estimated to cost around $21.5 million. The second most expensive project is the repurpose of the Soldotna Prep School building, which is expected to cost around $18.5 million.

As part of the Soldotna Prep School projects, KPBSD’s district office, River City Academy, Soldotna Montessori and Connections Homeschool would all be relocated to the prep building, which is currently sitting vacant and which costs the Kenai Peninsula Borough $300,000 annually to maintain, according to a description of the bond package prepared for school board members.

“The facility is currently (under-used) and this repurposing project would address multiple School District, Borough and community issues while (making) the building operational cost expenditures much more effectively applied,” the project description says. “The project will also serve to address both Borough and School district needs without expanding Borough infrastructure and thus creating more efficiencies in facility use.”

Other projects include in the proposed bond package include $5 million work to expand the efficiency of the district’s automotive maintenance shop, $4.8 million worth of metal roof replacements at Nikiski North Star Elementary, Mountain View and Hope schools and $5.5 million for student drop-off facilities at Chapman, Homer Middle, Kenai Middle and Mountain View Elementary schools.

Also included in the proposed package is $500,000 for the construction of new concession and restroom facilities for Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School. The school has been working to crowdsource $250,000 needed for the project since February, citing the high cost of seasonal port-a-potty rentals and lack of available district funds.

Improvements to the front entrance at Homer High School, safety and security renovation at Kenai Middle School and the installation of turf fields at Seward and Nikiski high schools are also described in the proposal.

KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Kari Dendurent told members of the board of education on Monday that the projects listed on the proposal are in alphabetical order and not in order of priority.

Multiple board members spoke Monday to the need for the district and the borough to educate borough voters about the package and what it could mean for school facilities.

“It will be, in my mind, a team effort to pass the bond and make sure our schools are functional, attractive, welcoming and safe for our students,” said board member Penny Vadla. “A bond is the only sensible way forward in my mind and I think (in) many people’s minds to ensure this happens.”

Lyon has previously voiced the need for a bond package that is “just right.” Peninsula voters previously defeated a bond package that included funding for the construction of a new school in the remote community of Kachemak Selo. Efforts to create a bond package that included more projects from around the district have been delayed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

K-Selo is absent from the proposed package. Holland said Monday that the district and the borough will work “outside of the bond” to get that project done.

He told board members that he’s felt support from borough administrators on the package, noting that the borough helped initiate the process.

“I’m encouraged by that,” Holland said. “ … I agree with you that we have to be in unison to make this have any chance of passing.”

The board of education’s full work session can be viewed on the district’s media website at media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.