Schools in Razdolna and Nikolaevsk could have a new Russian teacher for next year. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has been accepting applications to fill the newly-created position.
Students in the village of Razdolna haven’t had a Russian teacher for at least eight years and parents have continuously called on the Borough School District to find one. Razdolna Village Community Vice President Kreel Basargin spoke to the school board during this month’s regular meeting.
“The borough (does) not understand our unique culture… our community again requests the borough provides us with a Russian language teacher for K-12,” he said.
Currently, an ELL teacher provides lessons with all the students at the school. Some classes have 30 minutes, others 45. The teacher spends the majority of her morning with the Kindergarten class. Also, throughout one of the school buildings, each object, including doors and soap dispensers, is labeled in both English and Russian.
“In our community, the families’ language is Russian. We are fighting to preserve and it’s getting lost due to this district’s and borough’s lack of support… putting English as a 100 percent education in our school,” Basargin said.
The district’s plan would allow for one certified teacher for grades 7 through 12 to split time between Razdolna and Nikolaevsk.
Razdolna Principal Timothy Whip said he has been working with his counterpart in Nikolaevsk to figure out how that schedule would work. Right now, Whip said they are considering splitting the lessons between even and odd days. On the days the full-time certified teacher is not available, the ELL teacher would likely fill his or her place.
But Whip admitted there could be issues with that because even though the schools have similar calendars they do observe certain Holy Days differently. Barsargin mentioned during the school board meeting that distance may also be an issue.
“So she has to drive all the way from Nikolaevsk to our village. It’s over 50 miles of travel going back and forth. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
During a recent meeting at the school, many Razdolna parents echoed that concern, though they were optimistic that the district is allowing for a teacher in the first place. Some parents called this situation a “test drive” and hoped that a full-time teacher for each school could be possible in the future.
But Whip said that may not happen because of the formula the district uses for its teacher to student ratio. That ratio currently stands at 1 teacher for every 17 students. To gain an additional full-time Russian teacher, the school would need to boost its enrollment. Or, the district could hire a teacher who could, hypothetically, serve as a math teacher and Russian teacher. Though, Whip said that situation may be difficult to come by.
There have been a few applicants so far, and the district is expected to begin interviewing for the position soon.