Kenai Peninsula Borough voters may be asked this fall to take on several million dollars in bond debt to pay for a new school in the remote Russian Old Believer community of Kachemak-Selo.
The approximately 50 students at the K-12 school in Kachemak-Selo, operated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, use three older buildings — one is a converted home — that have long needed repair or replacement. Students and parents have reported cracked walls, drafts, plumbing and roof leaks, and inadequate equipment.
Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has proposed an ordinance that would ask voters this fall whether the borough can issue bonds to cover the required local match for state grant funds for the school. The proposed ordinance lists the total bond amount as $3.5 million, but during the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s finance committee meeting May 15, Pierce said the administration plans to amend that to about $5.39 million to access the full state grant of approximately $10.87 million. The ordinance will be on the agenda at the assembly’s June 5 meeting.
Kachemak-Selo, the farthest east of three Russian Old Believer villages east of Homer, is at the bottom of a large hill without a safe road to drive from the village to the road system. Because of that obstacle, the state deems Kachemak-Selo as its own attendance area and requires the school district to provide a school for the students there.
“Local residents access the village via an established trail; however, there is not an accessible road as defined by borough or state road standards,” wrote Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh in a memo to the assembly. “Since 2012, borough and school district personnel evaluated alternate transportation methods in lieu of school construction.” Officials determined building a road is not feasible “due to the geographical inaccessibility.”
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said during the assembly finance committee meeting that the district’s board of education has not yet committed formal support to the school construction, but the board will likely discuss it in the future.