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City Approves Nome Schools’ Full Budget

Superintendent Shawn Arnold, with board members Brandy Arrington, Jennifer Reader, and Board President Betsy Brennan. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

All they asked for and more—that was the pleasant surprise Nome Public Schools met at this week’s City Council meeting.

The city approved the district’s full local budget request – even adding extra funds for an early childhood education teacher – preserving a program that board members agree has benefitted Nome students. But at Tuesday’s school board meeting, Jennifer Reader clarified a point of confusion for some council members, who questioned if their funding would replace tuition required for students to attend the preschool. Given the cost of school maintenance, the answer was an unfortunate “no.”

“The tuition has to be collected so they can maintain the building and run the facility. The money that they just gave is specifically for that teacher only. That’s it. That’s all it paid for,” said Reader.

Superintendent Shawn Arnold says the Kawerak Head Start program has been wrestling with a similar downsize in funding for certified teachers.

“They’re also struggling because outside of Nome, they have seven locations they weren’t able to fill with certified teachers that they were before—seven out of 10…they were still able to keep three. But they’re kind of struggling to maintain that,” said Arnold.

With the state’s continuing tug-of-war over education funding, the council wanted to know what NPS will do if state money is restored. Arnold replied: increase career and technical education, or CTE, pathways for students at Nome Beltz High School. For example, the district hopes to combat Alaska’s high rate of teacher turnover by steering students into education. They’re currently building an early childhood education pathway – and hope to offer courses at Beltz next year.

However, if the money comes through this year, Arnold says the district still needs a rainy day fund of its own.

“The best-case scenario is we want to buffer our reserve funds as best as possible because oil prices as of yesterday were $58 per barrel, which is under predictions, which is kind of a scary thing,” he said. “So, we still really are looking ahead at the best of the worst years.”

Meanwhile, Arnold says, the “mystery of the disappearing pool water” – though still quite mysterious – is inching closer to resolution. And it may not be as exciting as the alien invasions and impressive pranks that some community members predicted.

“You know, we have a little bit of a better theory with what happened. There was a busted coupling somewhere along the line. They believe this busted coupling led to the leak,” he said.

Arnold says the damage appears minimal and the city hopes to have the pool back in service in a couple of months.