School district officials say community partnerships will be instrumental as Kodiak emerges from nearly two years of living life in a pandemic.

“As we talk about re-engagement and attempting to get kids back to school and higher activity levels, … community organizations become more critical than they ever have been before because we are looking to reconnect in general,” said Kim Saunders, Kodiak Island Borough School District’s director of special services. 

The Morning Rotary Club helps students through its annual Coats for Kids program, Saunders said, and the Lions Club has been helping students with vision screenings. The Kodiak Kiwanis Club has helped support Kodiak High School’s Key Club, a student-led organization where students practice leadership, citizenship and community service.

The Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center has worked with the district for years and helped develop the Teen Crisis Line, a service Kodiak secondary school students can utilize during emergencies.

Connected to mental health and student response is a multidisciplinary team made up of different agencies including Kodiak Police Department, Department of Justice, Office of Children’s Services and the school district.

“They come together to problem solve and update one another on efforts related to different things that come up,” Saunders said. “We really value that relationship.”

Kodiak Arts Council places a huge investment into student and teacher development, Saunders said, especially since it shares space inside the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium. 

“They are huge in the training and development of teachers,” Saunders said. “Entire programs are supported by the Arts Council, whether it’s music or theater or visual arts.” 

The Arts Council helps oversee the Munartet Project, a grant-funded program coordinated in conjunction with the school district, the Alutiiq Museum, Kodiak College and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

“They received a huge grant to help develop arts and culture to responsive educators and help scale up their educational training,” Saunders said.

Native Alaskan tribal partnerships are important as well, Saunders said.

“Everything from child protective responsibilities to helping us with grant-funding opportunities for different projects has helped, as has Kodiak Area Native Association’s overall prevention program,” Saunders said.

Saunders said KANA has been especially helpful in initiating the district’s Green Dot bystander intervention initiative for high school students.

Saunders said Green Dot is a national program with a strategy that “aims to shift campus culture and increase proactive preventative behavior by targeting influential members from across a community with basic education, skill practice and reactive interventions to high-risk situations.”

“Green Dot is a way of working with students to respond proactively when their safety might be in question,” Saunders said. “There’s both proactive and reactive ways to respond to such issues, so we work with students to develop skills and strategies.”

The district, in partnership with KANA, the Kodiak Police Department and Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center, has been implementing it on a local level.

“We want to try to improve the climate and culture in the high school and give our students tools for different ways to respond to situations,” Saunders said.

Kodiak Police Department, as part of the multidisciplinary team and the one of the main law enforcement agencies on island, enjoys a close partnership with the district, according to Saunders.

“The partnership with the school district is very valuable, especially from an emergency services standpoint,” said Lt. Francis de la Fuente. “During a tsunami warning, the high school is the official shelter and Dr. Larry LeDoux has done a phenomenal job on the emergency side of things.”

De la Fuente said the multidisciplinary team has been extremely helpful, especially in terms of possible sexual assault incidents.

“That is one of the best things that Kodiak has due to limited manpower and resources in one agency,” de la Fuente said. “The multidisciplinary team focuses on specific specialties we work hand in hand with in critical incidents.”

He said in any given scenario where there are a few officers on a shift, responding to a sexual assault can diminish available resources.

“You have one officer who will interview a victim, and it’s hard to interview a victim multiple times because you don’t want the victim to relive the crime,” de la Fuente said. “The safety of the victim is priority. We have an advocate who helps, because sometimes a victim doesn’t want to see a male, even if he’s an officer.”

The multidisciplinary team adds symmetry to any crisis incident, he added.

“The beauty of the multidisciplinary team is that there is no hierarchy because we work as a team,” de la Fuente said. “Kodiak is a model of a great multidisciplinary team because it works, and we are happy to work with the other agencies. That is one of the good things that came out of this. Kodiak as a whole was able to go above and beyond to remove the blocks to boundaries.”

Saunders said there are other examples, and the district is thankful for all of them.

Partnerships, Saunders said, take a lot to coordinate but have the benefit of quick communication.

“All of our partnerships are very responsive,” Saunders said. “One of my favorite parts about the community partnerships is how responsive our community is when our school district says, ‘We have this need.’”

She said facilitating communications can be time consuming but important.

“Every one of these organizations have their own initiatives, but it’s important to have all of them align,” Saunders said. 

Saunders said most organizations, whether nonprofits or government agencies, have a mission goal that involves helping youth in some fashion.

“Schools are the most natural way of doing that, and it’s really refreshing when those agencies come to us with ideas or bring resources,” Saunders said. “We seek out those relationships, but they also seek us out.” 

Saunders said the pandemic has created a lot of pivoting among partnerships, but the district has adapted.

“Everyone has had to be flexible during the pandemic and these partnerships are no exception,” Saunders said. “We’ve had to think about doing things differently or thinking creatively, and forced everyone networked to say, ‘How are we going to this differently?’”

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