Some challenging topics are on the agenda tonight during a special work session of the Denali Borough Assembly and the Denali Borough School Board.
The two panels will discuss the possible closure of Cantwell School, due to continual low enrollment; the potential of redistricting after the census and reducing the number of seats on local boards; and review a proposed capital improvements list. A new initiative for prekindergarten education is also on the agenda.
The public is invited to attend the 6 p.m. meeting at Tri-Valley Community Center.
Cantwell School is the oldest school in the Denali Borough, but enrollment is currently fewer than 10 students, K-12. The school board briefly discussed the potential closure issue at their last meeting and noted the many comments already received from the public, many advocating to keep the school open.
At that meeting, school superintendent Dan Polta called it a difficult balancing act. The school will lose state school site funding with such low enrollment. To keep the school open would mean using funds currently dedicated to other uses in the district.
“We have to balance all of those competing, simultaneous interests,” he told the school board.
The Denali Borough currently has nine seats on the borough assembly, the planning commission and the school board.
“We are an outlier with nine seats and a population under 2,000,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker, after comparing local board size with other boroughs in the state.
Juneau, Kenai, Fairbanks and Anchorage are the only boroughs that have boards with nine or more members. Most have seven or fewer members.
The current configuration has served the Denali Borough well, Walker said and may continue to do so. Voters would have a say before any change was made, he added
There are currently two seats in the northern district, one in the Panguingue/Ferry district, four in Healy, one for McKinley Village and one for Cantwell.
“A number of people, over the years, thought that’s asking a lot of service of our people,” he said. “And we have had a hard time filling seats at times.”
The time to make that change would be after the current census. At this meeting the boards will likely discuss the possibility of making that change.
The two boards will also review the capital projects list, which includes a roof project for Anderson School, and some borough-related projects, like a recycling building at the borough landfill. New street signs for the upcoming borough-wide addressing project may also be added to the list. The list will be introduced officially as part of the budget process.
The boards will also discuss a new statewide initiative focusing on the importance of pre-K education and ways it could benefit children in the Denali Borough.
Congratulations Louis Overington, lifelong seasonal resident of Healy. He just took third place in the 2020 Freeride Junior World Championships in Kappl, Austria.
“Conditions were pretty sketchy to start with a bullet-proof snowpack, but the storm rolled in just in time to add about 30cm of new snow,” said his dad Bill Overington in a Facebook post. “It turned out to be a little too much for the original venue option, but they moved it to a lower mountain venue and pulled off the event.”
“We are super proud of Louis,” he added.
This was his first competition of the season. Growing up, Louis spent half the year living in Healy and half the year living in Utah. His parents Bill Overington and Louise Lovrich were longtime co-owners of Denali Outdoor Center.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.