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Kipnuk shifts to remote school after apparent dispute between LKSD and traditional council

The Lower Kuskokwim School District is offering breakfast and lunch to all students.
Lower Kuskokwim School District

Students in Kipnuk are without some of their teachers or a principal. Starting Nov. 2, they will shift to remote learning following an apparent dispute between the school district and the Kipnuk Traditional Council.

Two weeks ago, the council sent a letter to all Kipnuk households prohibiting children in the village of around 700 people from attending school, citing concerns for the physical safety of students.

On Oct. 31, the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) released a statement announcing the school’s closure. It also cited concerns for the safety of students and staff. Kipnuk's Traditional Council has not agreed to comment.

The reasons for the dispute are unclear, but class was canceled Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at the Chief Paul Memorial School. Students will shift to remote learning beginning Nov. 2 until further notice.

The school closure comes just days after the Kipnuk Traditional Council wrote a formal banishment letter to the school’s principal, LaDorothy Lightfoot, calling for her to leave the village on the noon flight on Oct. 28.

According to a dispatch report, Alaska State Troopers received a call from LKSD reporting that Lightfoot had locked herself in her office after village law enforcement tried to take her into custody.

Troopers arrived in Kipnuk on Oct. 29 to find the boardwalk between the airport and the village blocked. They were able to deescalate the situation and meet with the principal and staff at the school. The school district chartered two flights and some staff left the village.

The state district attorneys office has been contacted. No crimes have been committed and no threats were made, according to troopers.

Kipnuk’s school will be closed to the public during remote learning. Some staff will teach remotely from Bethel.

Nina was a temporary news reporter at KYUK. She comes to Bethel from NPR, where she's a producer at Morning Edition.
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