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

  • drswint_ucsd_superintendent.jpg
    Maggie Nelson
    The superintendent of Unalaska’s schools, Robbie Swint Jr., has resigned. The school board accepted his resignation in a unanimous vote at a meeting Wednesday night. According to a statement from the board, Swint is moving off the island to be closer to his family. Swint said he is sorry that he won’t be fulfilling his commitment to the district. He was just over a year into his three-year contract. But he feels that he wasn’t supported by the school board and wants to put his family’s needs first. “I don't want to say any derogatory thing against anyone,” Swint said. “I will just say I don't believe it was a good fit for me for a number of reasons. And so that's why I submitted my resignation.”
  • Schools in Unalaska opened today and the district welcomed seven new staff members this school year. KUCB's youth media producer, Eldred Paradeza, is on a mission to interview all of them and tell the community more about their background, hobbies and hopes for the new school year.
  • 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.
  • 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 boys basketball team finished in fourth place in their division at the 2022 state tournament. They entered the 2A Alaska State Basketball Championships as the sixth seed on an at-large bid, after taking third at regionals earlier this month.
  • The Unalaska school board is considering switching up the district’s calendar and is looking for input from the community. At their meeting Wednesday, board members discussed three different options for future school year schedules, one of which was drafted by member Kerry Mahoney. It pushes the entire school year back and puts the first day of school on Sept. 5, about two to three weeks later than usual.
  • The Unalaska girls varsity basketball team finished their season at the 2A Great Alaska Regional Conference in Anchorage Saturday in a final game against Unalakleet. The Raiders lost 38 to 44 in their final game, and with it the opportunity to play in the state tournament this year. They took third place among four teams in the regional tournament.
  • 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.