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Petersburg schools facing more cuts


Already facing funding challenges from this year’s legislative session, schools were hit with another potential blow when the Senate Finance Committee proposed a 4.1 percent base student allocation cut.

It was done “literally under the cover of darkness” Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter said during a school board meeting Tuesday evening.

The cut would result in an approximate loss of $235,000 for the Petersburg School District, Finance Director Karen Quitslund said. It’d add onto the $150,000 loss the district is already facing because of HB278.

“That’s a huge cut to us, that’s a huge impact,” Kludt-Painter said.

The committee looking at the base student allocation cut isn’t taking any more public testimony, but the superintendent did say local legislators can still be contacted.

One area talked about specifically Tuesday was activity travel and how it could be impacted.

Right now, the district collects activity fees from students “to help offset the costs of travel” and uses “a small portion of the state and borough contributions” for activity funding, Quitslund said. Students also fundraise.

“There’s a lot of things up in the air” with activity budget and ferry system cuts, Activities Director Jaime Cabral said.

The district won’t know exact numbers until after the legislative session ends April 19, but he said they aren’t planning to cut any activities right now.

“We’re all on the same page and working together,” he added.

Cabral brought up a few new ideas, including sending boys and girls to events at the same time to save money, cutting farther trips out and forming a booster club to support all activities.

He added that some schools are moving to 100 percent fundraising, but losing students or experiencing lower participation rates because of it.

Petersburg has actually seen in increase in activities such as basketball, student government and band over the last few years despite an enrollment drop, Cabral said.

There’s an 84 percent participation rate in the high school and an 82 percent participation rate in the middle school, he added.

“I just think there are a lot of possibilities,” Kludt-Painter said, adding schools could form a “more cooperative spirit” when it comes to scheduling.

Kludt-Painter also talked about the kitchen remodel project. The district owns $19,000 worth of design documents that could be used now or in five years, whenever the district needs them, she said, but they had to cease design work as cost estimates kept growing.

Schools in Alaska are currently facing a potential five year moratorium on capital projects.

“We are going to step back, we’re going to look at the bare minimum amount we need to do,” Kludt-Painter said.

School Board President Sarah Holmgrain pointed out that the remodel is an important project because it’s a national disaster kitchen meant to feed the community in the case of a disaster.

There are issues such as asbestos in the floor and Holmgrain added that the kitchen doesn’t come close to having the setup local restaurants have, even though meals for 400 kids plus staff are being prepared in it.

The district will be holding a special meeting next month to reexamine the budget.

“The district has not finalized next year’s budget because we are waiting on the state’s budget and the implications that has and will continue to have on Alaska schools’ funding,” Quitslund said. “We are in a strategic planning mode for what is in the best interest in educating our students and providing the highest quality of education based on our funding.”


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