School year starts with high school programs in Aleknagik, Twin Hills.
The Aleknagik and Twin Hills schools had high school students for the first time in a while when the new school year started this month.
At Twin Hills, there were five freshman and sophomores enrolled the first week – and one senior was deciding whether to stay, or to finish at Togiak, where she did her first years of high school. At Aleknagik, nine students registered right away, but not all families had returned from summer travel and activities, so it was possible that number would increase.
Both schools added staff member to accommodate the increased number of students, and did some remodeling to make the space work. The Southwest Region School District worked to ensure that each of the schools had curriculum, spaces and trained staff ready to go, but with no enrollment numbers until school began, some of the preparation was just a matter of having the pieces in place and waiting to see what happened.
Previously, students from those communities were either home-schooled, went to a boarding school, or stayed in another town for high school.
A few days into the school year, Twin Hills Principal Nate Preston said the program was going smoothly and students seemed to be doing well with their first lessons. High school students at his school were taking typical freshman and sophomore classes – language arts, math, science and the like, he said.
The district had originally talked about offering some of the high school curriculum via distance delivery, but this fall, all of the classes are being taught in person, although some online materials are used.
The school was still sorting out what sports and activities would be available.
“There will be some sports,” he said, mentioning basketball and volleyball as a possibility, depending on how many students were eligible. “It depends on what teams they want to go with. We’re definitely going to do NYO, and other sports we’ll see what the kids are interested in as it goes through.”
Twin Hills is one of the smaller schools in the district, so the five or six older students make about 20 percent of the school’s total enrollment.
“I think it’s a good thing that everybody gets to stay home, they don’t have to go to a different village, the kids don’t have to leave,” Preston said. “It’s good for kids to be able to stay home where they’re from.”
That’s exactly what the district was going for when they added the new programs.
SWRSD Associate Superintendent Steve Noonkesser said the high school programs are one part of an effort to best meet students need, whether by enabling them to get an education without leaving home, partnering on expanding career and technical education programs or ensuring that students have elective options.
“[The high schools are] really just one piece of trying to better meet kids’ needs, and hearing what parents and the board want,” Noonkesser said.
Southwest Region School District had also added a high school program at Ekwok this year, but no students enrolled. There, the oldest student enrolled during the first week was a sixth grader.