Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News 
One of the two buildings used to teach elementary school children in Kachemak Selo sits on the outer edge of the village Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 in the village at the head of Kachemack Bay.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News One of the two buildings used to teach elementary school children in Kachemak Selo sits on the outer edge of the village Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 in the village at the head of Kachemack Bay.

School district identifies almost $30M in critical projects

The 19 projects would impact 38 of the district’s 42 schools.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administration and Board of Education will once again submit to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly a bond of 19 critical projects that would go before borough voters in October.

At a meeting of the school board’s finance committee Monday, KPBSD Planning and Operations Director Kevin Lyon described a dire situation when it comes to the status of many of the district’s projects that were left in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We say we care about it, but we have leaky roofs and we have garbage cans in the gym and you can’t do PE and we have all this stuff — what are we really telling people?” Lyon said. “They’re seeing it by our actions; we need to support this. I know it’s an uphill challenge, especially in today’s climate, but … every year, we hear it’s never the right year … We have to start moving forward.”

The district will re-submit the same projects for consideration to the borough that they initially approved at their March 2, 2020 board meeting. The 19 projects would impact 38 of the district’s 42 schools and would include about $4.9 million in district and community-wide projects and about $25 million in projects specific to certain schools.

The most expensive project identified in the bond list is the replacement of the roof at Homer High School, which is expected to cost just over $8.2 million. According to district documentation, the roof is 35 years old, out of warranty and “deteriorating.” The main issues include inadequate attic ventilation and a threat of water intrusion due to an internal gutter system that is no longer functioning.

Another big project would be the construction of a new Kachemak-Selo K-12 school, whose future has long been up in the air. The project, which is estimated to cost around $5.39 million, would replace the school’s existing three structures, which are renovated houses, with a single school. According to borough documentation, the money identified in the bond reflects the local funding match required by the state, which is supplying $10,010,000 for the project.

Other projects identified in the bond include repairing earthquake damage at Seward Middle School, upgrades to Kenai Middle School’s kitchen and lunch serving area and the replacement of windows at Ninilchik School.

If approved by both the school board and by the borough assembly, the bond would appear on the Oct. 26, 2021 municipal ballot for borough voters to either approve or disapprove. The bond was initially supposed to appear on last October’s ballot, but did not due to COVID. The board estimates that the bond, if approved, would cost borough taxpayers an average of $52.46 per year.

During his presentation to the board, Lyon pointed out that the longer the projects are put off, the more expensive they become. In October of 2020, he said, it took $209.82 to purchase what would have cost $100 in 2001.

KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said during a meeting of the Board of Education Finance Committee that the board will need to be “very persuasive” in negotiating with the borough for approval of the bond. O’Brien said that Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has previously stated that he would not be in favor of approving the bond.

“Interestingly, the mayor is not in favor of moving forward with a bond and stated that he would publicly state so,” O’Brien said. “… So [at] tomorrow’s meeting with the borough assembly, this board is going to need to be very, very persuasive with the assembly in terms of what our priorities are for our facilities.”

The district will participate in a joint work session with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday to begin the process of negotiating the district’s funding for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1, 2021 and ends on June 30, 2022.

The work session between the district and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. on Tuesday and can be watched via the KPBSD livestream channel at go.kpbsd.org/BOElivestream, or the borough Zoom meeting with ID: 938 6524 5999 and passcode: 886199. To join the meeting from a computer, visit https://zoom.us/j/93865245999.

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

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