January 14, 2021
Dear GCSD Families and Community Members:
Happy New Year! The Merriner family traditionally ushers in the New Year by pounding on pots and pans outside at midnight (neighbors love it, I’m sure). Ushering in 2021, I must admit pounding harder, louder, and longer than since my childhood as I have looked forward to the 2021 vaccine rollout with keen anticipation. My parents in Anchorage get their first shot next week. Word on the street in Galena is that youth 16 years old or older may receive both shots of the vaccine in February. Regardless of how a person feels about getting vaccinated him/herself, public health officials will continue to encourage COVID-19 mitigation protocols until a high enough percentage of society is vaccinated. As someone yearning for a return of handshakes, hugs, high-fives, breathing non-mask air, seeing people’s smiles, playing a game of pond hockey without worrying about violating City ordinance, inviting friends over to the house for food/fellowship, traveling without quarantine/paperwork/testing requirements, and watching our youth enjoy physical activities like basketball, wrestling, volleyball, etc. … to name a few, I welcome 2021 with open arms and a wide smile.
As we begin spring semester 2021 with such hope while continuing the education of our youth during this continued worldwide pandemic, GCSD’s many programs of educational choice and excellence are firing on all cylinders. Second semester also marks the time when the legislature decides funding for the next school year and when the district prioritizes needed infrastructure improvements.
The Alaska legislature will gavel in on January 19, 2021. Alaska’s fiscal realities will, once again, constrain their work. Governor Dunleavy’s proposed 2021-2022 budget calls for flat funding for K-12 education for next school year. As we all know, flat funding cuts K-12 education because of inexorable inflationary expenses like negotiated salary increases, rising energy costs, etc. All that to say, while the odds are against a K-12 education revenue increase for next school year, GCSD plans to lobby for some increase in K-12 education funding, remaining hopeful and determined to fight for what is best for our students and families.
Additionally, the spring semester begins the district’s process of determining major and minor facility upgrades to improve our educational programs. On Thursday, November 5, 2020, Alaska’s Dep’t of Education & Early Development (DEED) published its 2021-2022 Capital Improvement Projects Major Maintenance Grant funding priority rankings. Out of 108 ranked projects from school districts across Alaska, GCSD’s Composite building renovation project on the GILA campus ranked #1 with $5,722,672 in state funding and $301,193 in matching GCSD funds. Since we will not know until the end of the 2021 legislative session (traditionally late April/early May) about whether the legislature will provide this funding, the earliest that work would start on this project would be spring/summer of 2022.
In closing, GCSD delights to serve all of our new and returning families and students. Please contact me at the phone number above or the email address below if you would like to discuss any aspect of this letter in greater detail, or if you would like more information on any district initiative.
Yours in Education,
Jim Merriner, GCSD Superintendent