Voznesenka parents tell KPBSD ‘Keep School Open’

A handful of the parents of students who attend Voznesenka School testified before the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board Monday evening. They said they did not want the district to shut the school down, which officials say they’re considering due to a stalled lease negotiation.

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Voznesenka School. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KBBI - Homer)
Voznesenka School. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KBBI – Homer)

Frosia Polushkin a substitute teacher at Voznesenka School and a parent, told the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board that the controversy between the board and Vosnesenka Community Council Incorporated, or VCCI, was causing students to worry.

The District leases school buildings in some Russian Old Believer communities on the southern Kenai Peninsula, including Voznesenka. Under the arrangement some schools in the Russian villages have never had the same amenities that schools in more populated areas get, like libraries, gymnasiums and more.

Parent, Zina Reutov said she did not understand what the problem was.

“What we don’t understand is why the Borough doesn’t want to pay for our water? I mean, we’re tax payers too,” said Reutov.

District officials say KPBSD has agreed to lease Voznesenka School buildings for $1.05 per square foot or $112,000 per year. They’ve also agreed to add 2 percent a year to the lease. However, they’re stuck on the issue of who will pay for water.

VCCI is asking for an additional $750 per month, or $9,000 per year, to pay for water at the school. They say that is the actual cost of the water through their local utility. The district argues that their offer already includes water.

If the school is shut down, Reutov says there will be negative consequences for students.

“If you shut down our schools, our students will…drop out. We’re not going to send our kids to any other KPBSD Schools or Connections. So please have the school stay open and figure a way to fix this. We’re not asking for much,” said Reutov.

In March,  Assistant Superintendent, Dave Jones asked the Principal at Voznesenka School, Mike Wojciak, to talk with parents about what might happen if a lease agreement is not reached. A District spokesperson says he told families about other options for elementary, middle, and high school in the Homer area as well as the District’s Connections Home School program.

Varvara Martishev  who substitute teaches at the school and has children attending there said she felt that Voznesenka was being treated unfairly by the District.

“Just to shut down the school because of not agreeing to the water bill does not make sense to me. When there are schools with gyms, cafeteria, construction classes and a field for sports; which my kids never did have, and there are schools around that have less children and have all the goodies with their schools… I feel that we always get the short end of the stick. We want to work together with you guys to have a long-term, future plan for my kids and my grandkids to go to Voznesenka School to graduate,” said Martishev.

If a lease agreement is not reached, officials say the issue may be an agenda item for the next Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board meeting on May 2nd.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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