New Mertarvik School Moving Forward

New Mertarvik School Moving Forward
Posted on 11/09/2022
Student project
Progress on the new Mertarvik Pioneer School, which will be called the Newtok Ayaprun School, for the village of Newtok, has begun. The district is moving forward with project planning in order to begin construction on the building this school year, said Mertarvik Pioneer School Principal Dr. Elizabeth Ruff.
 
“We’ve been a little slowed down because of COVID, and not being able to get building supplies, and for a while they weren't working at all because everything was locked down, but it’s coming,” she said.
 
Students making a drumThe village of Newtok is in the process of relocating to Mertarvik, due to land erosion and permafrost degradation. Mertarvik, in Yugtun, means “the place of the spring.” People have traditionally visited Mertarvik to get water and now have selected this location for their new village.
 
As people began to move to Mertarvik, school-age students have attended classes in the Mertarvik Evacuation Center, which has been converted into a temporary school.
 
Currently, the school has three certified teachers, two Yugtun speaking teachers and additional support staff for its 40 students. Dr. Ruff said as more houses are finished and families prepare to move in, she expects the student population to grow.
 
Mertarvik Pioneer School is a dual language school, with learning rooted in the Yugtun language. Students in K-1 have instruction in Yugtun with English instruction beginning in grade two.
 
We have three goals for school improvement: academics, of course, to increase our test scores and show student growth; incorporate social and emotional learning habits into what we do daily. Our third goal is to make sure that we integrate culture and language into what we do every day,” Dr. Ruff said.
 
Mertarvik students have been keeping busy with academic courses that are taught face-to-face and also through distance delivery. Students report their favorite activity is “outdoor school.” The program initially started with science field trips, but has turned into an opportunity for students to learn about the land they live on.
 
Student outsideThe K-6 students have Yugtun-based science instruction during the week and on Fridays, participate in a field trip or activity that supports learning. Incorporating the hands-on aspect of science gives students greater buy-in with the curriculum, according to Dr. Ruff.
 
Students work across grade groups, so they are supporting each other in their learning, Dr. Ruff said. Most recently, students have been learning about local animals and the habitats where they dwell. Students even created models of animal habits with materials collected from the tundra.
In addition to academic classes, students are able to participate in art club, robotics, Yup’ik dance, Sources of Strength, The Spelling Gang and after school reading. Students can also often be found engaged after school hours.

“Even though we don’t have a gym, students have participated in Cross Country, Native Youth Olympics and basketball,” Dr. Ruff said.
 
With 31 feet of bank left, LKSD is moving forward with a modified “planned retreat,” such as what the district accomplished in Napakiak. Funding is provided to complete the building planning as well as to begin the foundation and pile portion of the Mertarvik building by the summer of 2023.
 
Student working
Currently, the new school plans for Mertarvik are at 65% completion and will be fully completed by January. That work, plus the Newtok managed retreat, will be put out to bid in February. 
 
LKSD has received forward funding from DEED to ensure that the Mertarvik project can proceed as planned while maintaining school in Newtok. 
 
As their new school building progresses, students will continue learning according to their school year goals.
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