With river erosion threatening the school in Napakiak, the Lower Kuskokwim School Board decided on March 16 to use $5,415,937.63 of its own funds to build the foundation for a new school.
The state normally funds school construction projects, but Napakiak currently ranks fourth on the state’s priorities for new school buildings, which means the state likely won’t fund it this year.
LKSD Superintendent Kimberly Hankins said that the district hopes that by using its own money for the project, it can get the new school for Napakiak higher on the list of projects for state funding.
“So when we resubmit our application for funding,” said Hankins, “we will be able to score higher in this category of what the district has contributed or done so far to address the problem.”
The river is currently 97 feet from the school building. Every year, erosion brings the riverbank closer to the Napakiak school, creating a slow-moving crisis. But erosion is not something that is normally factored into state funding for new school construction. Hankins said that the priority is usually overcrowded classrooms, but that’s not the problem in Napakiak.
"The case we were trying to make, of course, is that we will have unhoused students because we’re going to need to look also about the safety and the next steps in terms of taking the school down. As the river approaches, it becomes a greater safety issue,” said Hankins.
The village of Napakiak has built a mile-long road to the site for the new school, making it possible to transport equipment and material to build a foundation there. Unlike other districts, the Lower Kuskokwim School District is large enough to have enough money on hand to be able to pay to build a foundation for a new school. The school board hopes to get reimbursed when the state funds the entire project.