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Mayor continues conversations on school solution for K-Selo

One of the Kachemak-Selo School buildings still in use, pictured in January 2024.
Riley Board
One of the Kachemak-Selo School buildings still in use, pictured in January 2024.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is continuing to seek solutions for a school in the South Peninsula village of Kachemak-Selo, Borough Mayor Peter Micciche said in a report to the Borough Assembly last week.

The school is made up of three critically dilapidated buildings, one of them now condemned and out of use, that serve about 30 K-12 students. The village is located at the bottom of a rugged switchback, which the district has said complicates the ability to do maintenance and increases construction costs.

In 2016, the district received a grant from the state’s Department of Education and Early Development, or DEED: $10 million to build a new school, if it could put up a $5 million match. That grant also came with design requirements, and a timeline.

For almost a decade, the district has been unable to put up that money. Voters rejected a bond in 2018 to finance the match. The grant expires this July.

During last week’s Borough Assembly meeting, Micciche said he recently met with three DEED officials, Commissioner Deena Bishop, School Finance and Support Services Director Karen Morrison and School Finance Manager Lori Weed, to talk about solutions for K-Selo.

“DEED will support us on extending that time, and they’re looking for some funding for us,” Micciche said.

But he said he still has a different route in mind.

“The easiest solution, clearly, for the most efficiency, the most common-sense approach, would be a community center that looks like a school,” he said.

In February, the assembly passed a resolution, sponsored by Micciche, to move the $10 million grant to a different agency — from DEED to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

The move would get rid of the local match requirement and design standards. Instead of a school, the borough would build a community center that could be used by the school district and by others, at a much lower cost.

“I think the help will be there either way. One way is probably 4 or 5 million less expensive, which makes sense to me, and it would be a really successful model for rural schools,” he told the assembly. “There are a lot of rural schools around the state that are waiting for a facility.”

Representatives from DEED did not return a request for comment. Micciche said through his conversations with the department, the borough put in a congressionally directed spending request for about $2 million of the project.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.