- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The only school in the small rural Interior Alaska community of Beaver is facing closure due to low enrollment, forcing some families to relocate.

The Cruikshank School was unable to meet the 10-student minimum enrollment required in order to receive state funding. Only eight students in kindergarten through the eighth grade are enrolled at the school, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1Txhhet).

With rumors of the school’s closure circulating, the families of three students have already moved away. Rhonda Pitka, first chief of Beaver, said she understands the choice that parents have had to make for their children.

“It’s a challenge. A lot of these people just want to live at home, and in order to do that you have to have a school,” Pitka said. “It is the key thing to keeping a village alive.”

The school remains open for now, but is operating without the support of state funds. The Yukon Flats School District is paying the $200,000 bill to keep the school open for the fall semester.

If enrollment reaches 10 at some point in the semester, the school still will not be able to regain state funding until the next enrollment count in October 2016. The school’s fate rests with the school board, which will decide Dec. 14 whether to keep the school open.

School Board President Laurie Thomas said the board would consider funding the school through the spring if residents in Beaver, which has a population less than 70, are able to work on a cheaper compromise. The school building is too costly for the district to cover, but it could possibly afford educating students in a facility with cheaper energy costs.

“We’re willing to work with them to figure out a plan,” Thomas said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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