The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Sixth grade move still in flux


Joe Arness expressed reservations regarding fast tracking the move of Seward Elementary’s sixth grade to Seward Middle School at the local site based school council’s monthly meeting April 11. As president of the Kenai Peninsula School District Board his concern is the transient nature of the demographic changes facing Seward schools. He pondered whether, after the upcoming tumble in Seward’s middle school attendance, the local schools would be faced with the question of returning to present form when the cadre of middle school aged children rebounds.

At the meeting it was revealed that KPBSD administration recently made available an additional half a staff position for the upcoming school year. Described as a boon equivalent to “winning the lottery” the provisional allotment would bridge the most significant staffing gap in the upcoming formulaic reduction of Seward Middle School teachers. For some present it seemed to justify checking the momentum behind attempting a seemingly precipitous move toward getting the schools reformatted before the next school year. SMS principal Jason Bickling said that he was of two minds on the issue, concluding that the advantages of immediate changes were offset by the benefits of taking more time to prepare and implement the contemplated move.

That the move remained an initiative supported by the council was reinforced when the members present were polled. Although there was one change of heart among the site council representatives, additional members present at the meeting brought the affirmative vote total even higher. Among them, the student representative Hayden Beard, accompanied by his successor Emily Brockman, described the support among the student body in positive terms while casting their vote for the move.

The criticisms of the community survey that helped substantiate the move toward moving the sixth grade to the middle school revolved around the perception that local school administrators wrote the survey and had unlimited access to the resulting data. With access to the responses a site council member alleged that direct connections could be made to specific individuals participating in the survey and that this perception had potentially skewed the survey results and intimidated possible participants. Bickling who designed the survey with input from the site council, differentiated between the data and connections to survey participants by mentioning that Leigh Ray, as the “keymaster,” had not divulged the undigested survey responses to him.

The agenda for the May 6 meeting of the KPBSD board at Seward High School has yet to be set. Even if the SMS move makes the agenda, an enabling vote of the board may not be forthcoming at the meeting. Arness indicated that approving the move at the district level for the upcoming school year would create a workload that administrators at the district and locally would be hard pressed to address given the limited amount of time remaining in the school year.


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