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Overcrowding at Nanwalek's school becomes district priority

Photo Courtesy of Ron Keffer.

Nanwalek’s school has been struggling to find more space for its students for years. The school typically crams 75 to 80 kids into a facility that is built to hold 60 students. The issue has brought the school out of compliance with the state’s capacity formula for schools.  

Last year, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District had no plans to expand the facility, but on Monday, the school board unanimously voted to prioritize solving the issue.

The board wants to put a 980-square-foot portable classroom near the facility. Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said the project would bring the school into compliance with the state.

The board’s vote put the $350,000 project at the top of its six-year plan for capital projects.  

“Because of the fact that we are currently needing additional space, we’re over capacity with students, they listed it as the number one project,” Jones said.

The school board reevaluates the plan annually, but Jones said the classroom being a priority doesn’t mean it will become a reality anytime soon. The district currently doesn’t have funding for the project and the state’s fiscal crisis has led to skinny capital budgets, making help from Alaska’s government unlikely.

“Right now, the state has put a moratorium on matching funds as far as capital improvements or new school buildings go,” Jones added.

However, the district’s list of capital improvements will be forwarded to the state incase money does become available. Jones said the district will also keep an eye out for other funding. Nanwalek’s school hasn’t been expanded since 1977.