Mosquito Lake residents are trying to organize so that their local government will take them and their desire to reopen Mosquito Lake School seriously. The school was closed after a drop in attendance. The Haines Borough, which owns the building, is looking into selling it.
On Wednesday, about 20 people attended the second “Friends of Mosquito Lake School” meeting, where they talked about their next steps.
One of the youngest attendees was 8-year-old Sophia Sutcliffe, who was there with her mother.
“When I went to Mosquito Lake I think it was very good because they would show more stuff,” Sophia said. “And like, we could learn and play the ukuleles. I think they should open it again.”
Sophia went to Mosquito Lake School from kindergarten to second grade. Now she attends third grade at Haines School.
“It breaks my heart that they just closed it when tons of people were gonna go,” she said.
Are there enough kindergarten through 6th-grade-aged children who want to go to Mosquito Lake School? To get about $300,000 in state funding, and reopen the school, they need ten students.
Borough Manager Dave Sosa said finding at least ten students would “most readily solve the issue.”
If the residents aren’t able to find enough students to reopen the school, they would need a very strong proposal to open the building as a community center. That proposal would be up against the option to sell the building.
Selling the building and property it sits on could bring in some serious revenue for the borough. The borough assessor says it’s worth $810,000.
Residents in the area think there are enough students to reopen the school. Last year, there were nine children enrolled. Three left the school partway through the year.
Because enrollment was so low, the School Board decided to close the school.
The residents at the meeting Wednesday went through essential questions they want to answer moving forward. The main one: are there ten potential students? Other include:
How much does the Haines Borough School District make if Mosquito Lake has ten kids?
What needs to happen to bring the building up to code and what is the cost?
Why Mosquito Lake school and not Klukwan School?
Can students be bused from town to Mosquito Lake School?
Should they investigate charter schools, magnet schools, just a regular school – what do they want the school to look like?
After writing down dozens of questions, the group assigned the questions to committees to try to streamline their focus. They ended up paring it down to communications, demographics, facilities/operations, curriculum, and funding committees and a steering committee.
Some people expressed frustration with the borough during the discussion. At the end of the meeting, Jim Stanford and Dana Hallett urged the group to stay positive.
“Right now I see Dave Sosa is on our side, he’s our friend,” Hallett said. “[Sosa] said right here that the fastest, most direct track to getting what we want is to get those kids and move in the direction of a school. It’s not about us versus anybody, we’re all in this together.”
The steering committee plans to meet next week. The week after that, on December 30th, they plan to hold a meeting with all of the committees.
The school district and borough will start planning their budgets for the next fiscal year soon. Friends of Mosquito Lake will need to find a way to get onto one of those budgets.
As the meeting wrapped up, Zach Jacobson, a parent in Mosquito Lake, said: “I think we’re done being reactive, now we’re proactive.”