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KIVALINA, Alaska-Tuesday's election in the small Inupiaq community of Kivalina, resulted in an overwhelming "Yes" vote on the relocation of the aging school in the small northwestern community. The vote was 117-11 in favor of building a new school 7 miles to the northeast of the barrier island village in an area called Kisimagiuqtuq.
Next, a feasibility study will need to be completed to determine if the new location is suitable for construction of the new facility. A permit will need to be applied for to do the study. This permit will have to come from the regional corporation that holds title to the land where the new school is being considered. Walter Sampson, the Vice-President of NANA’s land office says that the permit process can be completed almost immediately, but that the formal request for a land transfer to the community could take up to three years.
The funding for the $40 million school would come from a recent agreement by the state to settle a lawsuit that alleged that there were funding inequities involving rural public schools. The agreement calls for the construction of five rural schools. A judge still needs to rule on the agreement.
Tribal leaders within the community are currently investigating funding for a road system to the proposed new school. The construction of the new school is seen as the first step in the relocation of the community off of the narrow strip of land that has been continually eroding away in recent years.
Kivalina has had a lot of coverage of late. In August of this year, a book titled, “Kivalina: A Climate Change Story,” hit the bookstore shelves. The book covered Kivalina’s push for climate justice and told the story of Kivalina’s lawsuit filed against 24 fossil fuel companies around the world. The author, Christine Shearer hoped her book would bring to light the plight of the rapidly disappearing community.
Also this fall, Kivalina gained world-wide attention when it found itself the location of the “orange goo” that washed ashore and baffled scientists for weeks before it was determined that the substance was a rust fungus. There has never been an answer as to where the substance originated from.