City and LKSD close to armory agreement

by Mark Arehart on April 24, 2013

Ayaprun second grader Kallie Andrew kicks a ball during recess.

Ayaprun second grader Kallie Andrew kicks a ball during recess.

The saga of the Old Armory in Bethel has been in the news for years. The Army National Guard is giving the building to the Lower Kuskokwim School District and the city is set to lease over the land it sits on. What does that mean for the students who actually use the gym?

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It’s the perfect time for a game of kick ball in the Amory Gym. It’s wet and muddy outside as winter finally melts into spring. Often they play basketball or practice roller-skating.

And sometimes they play a game called Fox and Ptarmigan.

“One person goes in the middle and when they are ready they say, “Fly ptarmigan fly.” And then they try to go on the other side. And if the fox tags one of the ptarmigan, they go in the middle and try to catch the other people, too,” explained fourth grader Noah Andrew.

At its last meeting, the Bethel City Council passed an ordinance to negotiate a lease agreement between the city and LKSD for the land underneath the Old Armory. That could be the last piece the district needs to assume control of the building and the gym inside it.

If all goes according to plan, LKSD students like Noah Andrew will continue to have recess, play basketball and tag inside the gym for years to come.

Kurt Kuhne of Bethel has a fifth grader at Ayaprun Elitnaruvik Elementary, one of the three schools that use the gym.

“There’s days when the playground, which is a nice new playground with basketball courts, but it’s iced over and kids can’t play on it. Or it’s too muddy, or it’s 30 below and they need somewhere to be inside. If you’ve ever hung around 11-year-old kids, you really want them to have somewhere to play,” Kuhne said.

Months ago, when the Armory’s fate was in flux, Kuhne talked to his son about the gym.

“He was concerned about it. I think he and his friends had talked about it and were worried. You know that’s where he’s gone to school his whole life and has done all of his gym classes. And they just assumed that was part of their school. So when that was going away they were very concerned,” Kuhne said.

“He and I talked about it after we listened to the last city council meeting. He was pretty excited about it that they thought they had it solved and that he would worry a little less about it and go play some more.”

LKSD officials said the negotiations should start soon.

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