Bethel residents might have to find a new place to watch this summer’s blockbuster movies. The Suurvik Cinema at Kipusvik will likely close down July 1, at least temporarily. That’s according to Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Dan Walker. KYUK sat down with Walker to find out why plans being made for the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik Yup’ik Immersion School would affect Bethel moviegoers.
Walker knows how much Bethel loves its movie theater. “We don’t want to close it, but it’s going to be dependent on us being able to develop this career pathway where we would actually have students along with some adult advisors running the theater,” he said.
Walker says that scenario is the only way the district can operate a movie theater, and that’s unlikely to happen by July 1.
The school district took over the movie theater when it signed a 15-year lease extension with the Bethel Native Corporation for the entire Kipusvik building. Kipusvik currently houses both the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik Yup’ik Immersion School and the movie theater. The school district has an option to buy the building after the lease is over.
The Kipusvik building was originally just a temporary site for the Ayaprun school until a new building was built, but almost four years after the old school burned down, the district and its insurance company are still fighting over the settlement terms.
“We had hoped to have it built by probably June of 2021, but really, until we have resolution with the insurance carriers it’s hard to say,” said Walker.
Walker said that the insurance company doesn’t agree with the school district on what the cost should be for replacing the Kilbuck school building that burned down in 2015. His estimate is that the new school will cost around $40 million.
“I can’t predict the future, I can’t predict when the insurance company will decide they’re gonna pay us the amount of money its going to take to build that new school, and I didn’t want to leave that school hanging without some sort of understanding and security of where they were going to be,” said Walker.
Walker says that the new school building for Ayaprun is just a matter of when.
“They are going to end up with a really beautiful facility when this is all said and done,” said Walker.
The school district has worked with parents to sort out the details for the new immersion school. It will be built on the main campus next to Bethel Regional High School. And to answer one of the community’s biggest questions: yes, it will feature a basketball court.
After the immersion school students move out of Kipusvik, the plan is for the district’s administration to move in and the district office building to be demolished.