School district improvements, projects list takes shape

By McKibben Jackinsky

Staff writer

There are Christmas wish lists. There are New Year lists of resolution. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has its Fiscal Year 2014 Capital Improvements-Major Maintenance Projects List, a six-year plan. It will be addressed by the nine-member school board at its February meeting.

“The list is compiled yearly and sent to the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development,” said Pegge Erkeneff, the district’s communications specialist of projects identified during annual site visits to school facilities by the borough maintenance director, school building administrator, a representative from the district’s risk management and director of planning and operations. “The list is generally paired down to roughly 30 projects
after all the visits have been performed.”

As the title suggests, the list is divided over six years, with the top five priority items targeted for 2014:

•Kachemak Selo new school construction;

•District-wide reroofs, phase II (bond);

•Kenai Middle School asbestos removal-office remodel;

•District-wide window replacements;

•District-wide security systems.

“The director of planning and operations prioritizes the list with input from the Kenai Peninsula Borough capital projects director and maintenance director,” said Erkeneff. “(Dave) Jones, our assistant superintendent, scrutinizes the final list before it is submitted to the school board for approval.”

The list is used to submit applications to DEED. If DEED scores the application high enough, it will be funded by the state at a rate of 65-35 percent split for grant funding or, if it meets the criteria, a 70-30 percent split for debt retirement.

Items that don’t score high enough will continue to be worked on, said Liz Downing, school board member representing Homer. 

The end of this month Downing will join other school board members on the first of two trips to meet with board members from around the state and legislators in Juneau. The improvement-project list is part of what will be discussed while she’s there.

“We’ve had opportunities to meet with Senator-elect Peter Micciche and a few other folks at different times,” said Downing.

“We had legislators in December who came to dinner with us and had informal conversations. And we’ll meet with legislators through teleconferences through the session, too.”

Sunni Hilts, a board member representing areas of the southern peninsula, will travel to Juneau to discuss the district’s wish list as well as other district priorities. As president-elect of the Association of Alaska School Boards, Hilts has the opportunity to discuss district, as well as state needs, with a broader audience. In December, she traveled to Arizona to meet with educational leaders of the Pacific region.

“Now I’m going to Washington, D.C., for federal relations networking and a leadership conference,” said Hilts. In April, she’ll travel to San Diego for a National School Boards Association meeting.

“We not only share what we’re doing with others, we also make connections. We get a chance to say this is what’s important in Alaska, this is what we’re doing,” said Hilts. “It’s a lot of educating ourselves and educating others.”

While Hilts and her husband were having lunch prior to flying back to Alaska from Arizona, she was reminded of the lack of understanding others have about Alaska.

“We asked the waiter how long we needed to give ourselves at the Phoenix airport. He said to add on two extra hours because of having to go through customs,” said Hilts, laughing at the misconception that Alaska is not a part of the United States. “We have a lot of educating to do.”

Downing urged public participation in letting legislators know of the district’s needs.

“The most important thing we have in terms of support is families contacting legislators to support our capital improvements list,” said Downing.

“Legislators like to know they’re serving the public at large. Families’ opinions are weighed quite heavily.”

For legislative contact information, see the legislative guide in today’s Homer News.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at