Borough, school district seeks to extend state infrastructure grant

The biggest project would be the construction of a new school in Kachemak Selo.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and Borough School District still have their eyes on a new school in Kachemak-Selo, and a request to extend a state grant to help fund much of the school’s construction is being reviewed by the Department of Education and Early Development.

District Superintendent John O’Brien said at the July 13 district board of education meeting that the state’s education department is reviewing the borough’s request.

O’Brien said Mayor Charlie Pierce requested an extension on the grant when the district and borough decided to push back a $30 million school construction bond to next year’s election cycle. At the July 13 meeting, O’Brien said it is the borough and district’s intent to go to voters with a bond package in the fall of 2021.

The $29,940,000 bond proposal tackles 19 school projects considered a “priority and critical to maintaining key infrastructure for both community and educational needs,” a Feb. 4 school board resolution said.

The biggest project in the proposed bond package would be the construction of a new school in Kachemak Selo, which could take advantage of more than $10 million in state funds, if the state will grant a deadline extension. Currently, the grant has a deadline of June 2021.

K-Selo has been in need of a new school for nearly 10 years. In 2011, the village petitioned the school board for a new facility. In 2016, the state appropriated $10,010,000 for construction of the school, but in order to proceed the borough needed to provide a match.

The state’s grant has already been extended once. In the October 2018 election, peninsula voters denied to fund the $5.5 million to build a new school in Kachemak-Selo. In early 2019, the borough asked the department for a seven-year extension on the grant, but only received two additional years to use the $10 million in matching funds.

The current school in Kachemak-Selo is made up of three borough-leased buildings and serves about 46 students. The borough and district have said the current school has deteriorated to the point that it is no longer viable as an educational facility.