Following its new subsistence calendar, Lake and Pen starts school after Labor Day
School is now underway for all the Bristol Bay area schools. The Lake and Peninsula School District was the last to resume classes, starting school Sept. 5.
The district is piloting a new calendar that they are calling the "subsistence calendar." Classes begin later and end earlier, with the school year wrapping up on May 1. The idea, according to superintendent Ty Mase, is to create fewer conflicts between the school schedule and traditional seasonal activities. Those include berry-picking and fishing. The district also anticipates that by cutting 77.5 hours of instruction from the calendar, it will save more than $400,000.
Newhalen School is one of the district's 12 schools. Principal Ed Lester said on the first day of school that the new calendar seems promising. He observed that when school started earlier more, students were absent.
"Kids have come in ready to go. We're hitting the ground with all of our students here today, and we're going to be focused. It's been a great start," said Lester.
The calendar was designed with spring and summer activities in mind as well. Lester anticipates that the new schedule will improve attendance year-round.
"For rural Alaska, when spring comes around and the birds are flying, fishing is gearing up and there are different activities going on, it's hard to stay focused in the classroom for education's sake. I think that having that time frame, being done at the end of April, that end goal is going to be there, and we're going to work toward that," Lester said.
The district serves students on the Alaska Peninsula and in the Iliamna Lake and Lake Clark areas. At the beginning of the year, the district had approximately 300 students enrolled from kindergarten to 12th grade.