School board asks to add bond to ballot

The $30 million bond package would fund capital projects in school buildings across the district.

The school board is asking the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to put a $30 million bond package on the October ballot. The bond money will fund capital projects in school buildings across the district.

During Monday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting, the school board passed a resolution identifying capital projects and improvements to district buildings and requested that the assembly move to put the bond proposal on the ballot.

District Superintendent John O’Brien announced the bond proposal was in the works at the Feb. 3 school board meeting. The borough and district met together to develop the list of school projects at a Feb. 4 joint work session.

“We’ve crossed over the billion mark in valuation in assets for our schools and this is an important bond that directly connects to the protection of that investment in our community,” school board member Jason Tauriainen said at Monday’s school board meeting.

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

About a quarter of the district’s schools are 50 years or older, while 80% of schools are more than 30 years old.

Identified projects span across the peninsula. There are two districtwide projects, one of which will address aged technology to ensure the “security challenges schools face today” and upgrade building automation controls to prevent system failures and reliable heating systems.

Building control systems are outdated and have “exceeded their useful life” at Kenai Central High School, Skyview Middle School and Nikiski Middle/High School, the resolution said.

The exterior building envelope is failing at Chapman Elementary, Cooper Landing, West Homer Elementary, Nanwalek, Sterling Elementary and Tebughna School. Repair of the building envelope will extend the life of the facilities and reduce energy consumption, the resolution said.

Roofs at Homer High School and Nikiski North Star Elementary have reached the end of their useful life, the resolution said.

The biggest project will be the construction of a new school in Kachemak Selo, which will take advantage of more than $10 million in state funds.

Educational improvement projects are needed at Kenai Middle School and Nanwalek School “to more adequately serve the student population,” the resolution said. According to the list of bond projects, these projects will replace failing windows at Nanwalek and enlarge the kitchens at Kenai Middle School and Nanwalek.

On the southern peninsula, the boiler and controls at Ninilchik School need to be replaced to provide for “efficiency and reliability,” the resolution said.

On the eastern peninsula, one project will address seismic repair for damage Seward Middle School sustained during the 2016 earthquake, which will “preserve the building integrity.”

A feasibility study is underway for Soldotna area schools and “necessary improvements will be required to meet educational requirements and extend the life of the facilities,” the resolution said.

“I just want to say that all of the items on this list are extremely important and I’m glad to see this finally move forward,” school board member Zen Kelly said at the Monday meeting.

If the assembly approves the bond package for the ballot, voters will have their say at the municipal election, Oct. 6.