Superintendent’s Corner

April 16, 2020

Dear IDEA Families:

Trust this finds each of you doing as well as possible during these unprecedented times. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was the one television show my three brothers and I never had to ask permission to watch. Our parents appreciated the healthy life-lessons that Fred Rogers shared with children. One such nugget of wisdom from Mr. Rogers hits home during our current societal crisis: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I know it is more difficult with Alaska’s current stay-at-home mandate to not only find ways to help but to also find ways to thank folks working in Alaska’s “essential” fields (health care, education, public safety, utilities, etc.). I, for one, am embracing Mr. Rogers’ reminder to us of the importance of the “helpers” amongst us during these trying times.

Speaking of helping serve … one of the core services IDEA provides our families and other homeschool/correspondence families around Alaska are our IDEA Curriculum Fairs. IDEA annually hosts curriculum fairs in Kenai, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Because GCSD cannot host these in-person events this spring, IDEA once again is living up to its reputation of cutting-edge innovation by converting the in-person Curriculum Fairs to an online “Virtual Fair,” to run throughout the dates previously scheduled for the live event: April 29-May 7, 2020. IDEA’s regional Facebook groups are filled with excited comments and thanks from families who are looking forward to this alternative. IDEA has already set dates for next year’s Curriculum Fairs (April 21-29, 2021), and families are putting those dates on their calendars.

On April 9, 2020, Governor Dunleavy announced Health Mandate 013 that declared that all public and private school buildings in Alaska will remain closed to students through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Health Mandate 013 also reminds Alaskans that Health Mandate 011 – Social Distancing remains in effect, prohibiting gathering for events, such as graduations. Please know that intensive planning is underway in order to best honor/celebrate all GCSD graduates this school year in light of the required Health Mandates. Stay tuned for more information on these important celebrations honoring our 2020 graduates.

As we look towards next school year, Governor Dunleavy’s 2020-2021 proposed budget called for flat funding (a cut because of inflationary expenses) for K-12 education. In late March, the Legislature passed a 2020-2021 operating budget that flat funds K-12 education. During a press conference on April 7, 2020, Governor Dunleavy announced that over $30 million in federal CARES Act dollars ought to reach school districts. Fingers crossed that Alaska’s children will, indeed, benefit from these much-needed funds. GCSD continues developing our 2020-2021 budget conservatively, as always, in order to maintain a healthy fund balance for contingencies. GCSD always remains open for discussions on how best to maximize the funding available to meet the learning needs of each of our students.

In closing, another Fred Rogers quote is apropos … “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” Please contact me at the phone number above or the email address below if you have questions or 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