Nanwalek school converts garage into classroom

Nanwalek School is getting some relief from overcrowding after a garage/shop area was converted into a new classroom over the summer.

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An aerial photo of Nanwalek School. (Photo Courtesy of Ron Keffer)
An aerial photo of Nanwalek School.
(Photo Courtesy of Ron Keffer)

Principal Nancy Kleine said the new classroom for sixth through 12th-graders has made students more comfortable and enthusiastic about learning.

“The kids just seem really happy to come to school this year. It’s almost like they have a place now. We have a pretty large middle school group, 26 kids and I believe there are 17 high school kids and that room is so much more appropriate for them. So they now have two large rooms, one downstairs and on upstairs for their classes,” Kleine said.

Kleine said the room is being used to teach middle and high school science and math.

The room is airy and bright with high ceilings and large windows. It also has a new smart board.

The school was built before statehood by the Bureau of Indian affairs in 1958. There’s been no expansion since an addition in 1977. But the population of Nanwalek has continued to grow. According to census data, Nanwalek’s population has nearly doubled since the state started keeping track in 1990.

Last year, the school was at 138 percent capacity. Until the Kenai Peninsula School District helped the school convert the garage/shop into a classroom, students were packed into a building that is supposed to hold 60.

Kleine said enrollment is up this year and that she expects continued growth.

“There is definitely a growth pattern going on. I’m not sure that in the next couple of years we are going to see an increase, but we are going to see a bump down the road,” said Kleine.

Kleine said she’s happy the District has found this temporary solution.

“I think this is a really good example of people pulling together all the way from the students and the staff and the District and the Borough all working together and the community, to support using what we do have. I’m actually really proud of everybody that’s been involved and very excited for the kids that they can relax this year and not be crammed in like they would have had we not opened up that space,” Kleine said.

Kleine said the school has 80 students this year.

At this time, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has no plans to expand the school.

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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.