Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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Education reporting from the KUCB Newsroom.

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    Maggie Nelson
    In a unanimous vote, City Council members granted the Unalaska School District its full funding request of roughly $5 million — a 6.5% increase from last year. The school district is expecting a drastic drop in student enrollment next fiscal year. And officials said that means they’ll be getting less money from the state. Overall, the projected budget is about $8 million — less than a 2% increase from last year. Still, the budget has a deficit of more than $200,000. District officials said a large part of that is due to trying to combat learning losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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    Berett Wilber
    While Alaska’s lawmakers consider increasing public school funding, the Unalaska City School District prepares for a significant decrease in revenue due to a drop in enrollment. And with that, the district is looking to the city for about $5 million to cover its budget for fiscal year 2023. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Robbie Swint Jr. presented the Unalaska City School District’s proposed budget, which is based on an estimated enrollment of 345 students.
  • The Unalaska City School District’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee decided to stand down Wednesday. That means committee members won’t be meeting monthly to discuss the district’s COVID-19 protocols, unless there is a spike in local cases and the district sees a need in resurrecting the advisory group.
  • A group of Unalaska elementary students won fourth place in Alaska’s state Battle of the Books competition this year. It’s the furthest any of Unalaska’s elementary teams have ever made it. The four-member team, which includes Indira Cummings, Gaven Casia, Raegan Kitsyuk and Eternity Leon competed in the all-day state competition on Feb. 14. In preparation for the battle, the Mystical Creatures, as they call themselves, read and reread a dozen books over roughly four months. On the day of the battle, the fourth-graders joined judges and teams from around the state on a conference call, answering questions and showing off their literary skills. They made it three rounds in the tournament, taking fourth place out of 32 total teams in their age group.
  • Unangam Tunuu [Unangax̂ language] classes are available at the University of Alaska for the first time in two decades. Instructors Haliehana Stepetin and Moses Dirks are using traditional methods as a framework for teaching this course.
  • Unalaska students and staff can start shedding their masks at school starting Monday.Unalaska City School District officials sent out a letter to families on Wednesday, saying masks will no longer be required beginning next week.
  • A collection of audio reels made in the Aleutian region in the 1970s was digitized and will soon be available online through the University of Alaska Fairbanks.The recordings were part of a school project that started in 1977 when a group of Unalaska students and their teacher Ray Hudson started collecting texts about the culture, language and history of the Aleutians. They called themselves the “Cuttlefish Class” – a name they picked out together – and they called their project the “Cuttlefish Series.”The students put together six hefty volumes meant to bring the island community and Unangax̂ culture into the classroom. They contain things like fishing stories, letters, recipes for alodics (an Unangax̂ form of fry bread), as well as memories from Makushin and the other lost villages that were forcibly evacuated during World War II.
  • There are more Indigenous people living in Alaska than anywhere else in the United States. But Alaska Native students are vastly underrepresented on college campuses. And when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — fields that are especially dominated by white men — Alaska Native students face even greater barriers to entry. Dr. Michele Yatchmeneff wants to change that.
  • The Unalaska school board decided not to change the district’s mandatory mask rules on Thursday following nearly three hours of contentious public testimony. Dozens of community members — including parents, students, teachers and local health officials — crammed into the Unalaska High School Library for the meeting. Some said that there is no need for masks in schools. Others argued that with COVID-19 cases soaring, masking is more important than ever.
  • Unalaska students and staff must wear face masks again in school buildings amidst a surge in COVID-19 infections on the island. The Tuesday decision from Unalaska City School District officials came on students’ second day back from winter break. The masking rules took effect Wednesday.
  • The Unalaska City School District has the blessing of the school board to hire an assistant or associate principal for the 2022-2023 school year.The last time the district filled that position was about 20 years ago, according to High School Principal Jim Wilson, who spoke in support of the new position at a school board meeting last week.
  • Stories of friendship, first loves, identity and family conflict filled the Burma Road Chapel last Tuesday evening, as Unalaska High School’s freshman class shared a collection of original short stories for the island’s first “Stories and Sweets” event.The teens each wrote a creative piece for their English class and presented their work at the fundraising event, which gathered around 50 Unalaskans. Parents, staff, friends and family showed up to support the young writers and purchase home-baked goods to help fund school events for the Class of 2025.