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Fairbanks school district Interim Superintendent talks goals, budget cut challenges going into next school year

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 6:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In a unanimous vote the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has appointed Karen Melin, Deputy Commissioner for Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, to serve as the interim superintendent for the 2021-22 school year. In a Q&A, Melin described her goals for the district over the course of this next year.

“I think one of the first goals that would be important is to kind of define the current reality. So what’s the current reality that we’re living with? Assess where our students are as far as their academics, their social, emotional health, and just kind of do an overall analysis to find out. Coming out of this, where are we? And then once we get a feel of that, identify next steps to address any gaps that we might see - maximize any positive things that came out of last year, and then maximize next steps,” said Melin.

She continued by saying, “I think this next year and the following year are a time where we need to be very thoughtful about how we look at what has happened, and how we’re going to move forward.”

In the wake of budget cuts to the district, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked Melin how she intends to work within these new budgetary constraints to make sure children are getting the same level of education and that educators continue to feel supported.

“That is the question of the day, and I don’t know that there’s going to be a silver bullet that’s going to solve all of the problems. I know that the district is receiving additional funding through the stimulus packages. So I think the challenge is going to be to maximize the influx of funding that’s coming from the federal government, and build a sustainability plan going forward. But one thing I think that is really important moving forward for our district to do is to fund your priority, and the priority for the Fairbanks school district, one of them, is student centered. So I think every budget conversation has to start with that - student centered. How are we going to do this the best possible way with the money we have? That’s a part of the analysis of our current reality,” said Melin.

Some of the changes schools underwent in response to COVID-19 could outlast the pandemic. We asked Melin if she envisions a hybrid model of schooling for the next school year, or would she like to see students return to classrooms full time?

“I would want to make sure that we understood all the options. I think that hybrid model works for some kids. It works for some families. So if it is something that is worthwhile and is working, I think we need to consider preserving it,” said Melin.

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