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PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:13 pm
by ksharlow
I am looking into relocating to Alaska with a teenage son who is very much into sports and the military. As a single parent, I need to ensure that he is getting a great education and that the cost of living isn't way above what I'm making. I'd love to even be somewhere with teacher housing. How do I find out which districts offer housing and which offer JROTC programs for him?

Re: relocating

PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2019 7:33 am
by Johncn

It's going to be difficult to find JROTC programming in a Bush community that offers housing support. This is because they usually are larger schools, and those tend to be on the road system, or the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) system. A quick Google shows various (US Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps) JROTC programs at schools in Anchorage, Mat Su, and Fairbanks. All of those are larger communities with numerous high schools. Some have leadership program visits to major, very active military bases because Alaska has bases in several locations, such as Anchorage and Fairbanks. There may be others, but I am not finding them easily.

There is a JROTC program in the city of Nome, which is a regional hub in the Bush. I should say that I know there was JROTC at Nome-Beltz High School when I lived in the area. I am not 100% sure if it is still in operation, but here is a page that may help you look into it more...the latest training schedule post is from the 2015-16 school year:

But, I don't think the Nome City School District offers subsidized housing. Here is their negotiated agreement (union contract), and I can't find any mention of housing support. You could ask Cynthia Gray in HR there.

Now, sports is a big category, and depending on what sport(s) your son is interested in, it could be easy to find good programs in rural Alaska, or impossible. Bush villages, which is where the districts tend to offer housing assistance, have very small schools, and sometimes only a K-12 facility with under 100 students, or even fewer than fifty. It's not practical to field larger teams at, say, the high school level, once you get below a certain size. With small schools, sometimes a "mixed" team of boys and girls will play volleyball, for instance, because there is no way to make a team large enough for both.

Rural Alaska schools tend to have cross country, wrestling, basketball, volleyball and sometimes cross country (Nordic) ski teams, and Native Youth Olympics (NYO). That's about it. For football, baseball, softball, soccer, swimming and all the others, it's usually only the larger urban schools / road system districts that can participate. You can get an idea which districts offer what here:

Also, sports teams in the Bush usually fly from one village to another either within or outside the district to play games. It's quite expensive to fly and feed entire teams, and their chaperones, for each game...but it happens all over Alaska. The weather does not always cooperate, and sometimes they are flying in pretty tough conditions. Of course, there are also regional tournaments where multiple districts fly their teams to a central host school, as well as the annual state finals.

Not sure if this helps, but you've come to the right place. Ask any follow up questions you want, and others may chip in some info that can help.


Re: relocating

PostPosted: Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:28 pm
by ksharlow
Thank you John
Is teacher housing only in bush areas?
Are there better bush districts than others for a single income family? I've also checked into some and the crime rate seems pretty high which is an obvious concern. Kachemak Bay seems to offer so much in regards to adventure and wildlife, but it seems to have a high crime rate.

Re: relocating

PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 5:02 pm
by Johncn

Yes, for the most part rural / remote "Bush" districts have to either build or lease housing for their teaching staff because the communities are far too small to support a rental market, and owning / purchasing property is not feasible for most teachers for a variety of reasons. Yet, school has to open, so teachers need to be sure when they sign a contract that they will have a place to live. So, Bush districts build in housing subsidies (not free housing, but rather reduced cost) into their Negotiated Agreement (contract) with their bargaining unit (union). Urban and "Road System" districts only rarely do this, such as when they have a remote school in addition their regular facilities, or a hard-to-staff position of some sort. You can see more about Bush vs. Road System / Marine Highway locations on the main ATP website here:

Teaching in Alaska

About Alaska

I would caution you against reading too much into what passes as crime statistics about Alaska. Most of it is misleading. There is crime, don't get me wrong, but most of it is not aimed at or visible to teaching staff and their families in most communities. With very small sample sizes, say a population of 200 or even fewer residents, it's not possible to draw meaningful conclusions because one incident in one year can skew the stats badly.

You mention Katchemak Bay as having a high crime rate? It is really does not. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD), which includes the Kenai towns and Homer / Katchemak Bay, is on the Road System (except for a handful of very small schools that may or may not be open in a given year due to population changes), and is highly sought after by teaching candidates. It may be a good choice for you, as it has larger schools with lots of activities. Lots of teachers who work in the Bush aspire to move to Kenai at some point in their careers.

Yes, there are significant problems in some communities with drugs and alcohol, and the package of social problems associated with low SES communities can be found in rural Alaska. It varies widely both by town and b year. So-called "Dry" villages, where alcohol is illegal, sometimes have more alcohol-related issues than "Damp" or "Wet" towns...which may seem counter intuitive. Some communities, even in remote areas, are now struggling with opiates, for instance, but not others in the very same district. It can and does change year-to-year, so check with the districts you are interviewing with about "teacher family challenges" in the specific community for which you are applying. But, you should probably ask those kinds of things after your interview, or when they ask if you have any questions.

We raised our kids in the Bush, and have no regrets about doing so. They were exposed to far less crime than they would have been in any urban area we have lived in, and I feel benefited from growing up, and from establishing friendships in cross-cultural, Alaska Native communities which have lasted into adulthood and across thousands of miles, as they don't live in Alaska now. They did pretty well in school, got the basics of a solid education, were active in sports and other activities, and had options when they graduated. But, we chose our communities carefully in the years we were changing jobs. You do have to do your research, but still approach the interview process as a learning experience, a fact-finding mission. Don't narrow your list too early.

I will say, also, that moving into a rural / remote village with a teen, you will want to ask the district about how new Outside high school students may or may not be accepted in that specific community. It can vary. Road system / Marine Highway communities may be easier for your son to fit into socially than a very small school coming in at the high school level. This, however, can also vary widely by the community and the year. Don't assume anything. Apply widely, then narrow your options after learning about the jobs and the living situation for each. Your new district will want you to be happy. They don't want to replace you at mid-year, or even after one or two years, so they will want you to find a "good fit".

There is just no way to make a list of good or bad locations. Well, to clarify, it is possible to make a list of communities and districts you THINK will meet your criteria, and then prioritize them based on those criteria. But, you should still keep an open mind as you begin your search. Much of what you put on your list will be unknowable until you learn more about what specific openings and opportunities are available in which communities. You can then do more background research once you get districts interested in you.

Hope this helps,