Moving to our YKSD villages
Welcome to the Yukon-Koyukuk School District. You are about to begin an adventure such as you have never encountered before. You will become immersed in another culture and in a part of the world unlike any you have ever known. Your need for self sufficiency will become evident. You will be called upon to assume responsibilities usually delegated to others in places where human resources are less limited. The experiential base of your professional life will be measurably broadened. You will be challenged professionally to utilize your skills, wits, and creative ideas to meet the educational challenges faced by you and your students. Through it all you will gain a sense of satisfaction for doing a job well done.
As a result of your time here your growth in your professional skills and abilities will become self-evident. Because of the smallness of the community and the school, you will almost immediately recognize the impact you have on the students. There is nothing more rewarding for educators than knowing you have made a difference in the lives of your students. You will be able to see that here: both in the classroom and in the community.
As a new employee in our school district, you are most likely going to encounter many personal and professional transitions in the months ahead. The purpose of this manual is to provide you with some information that you can read ahead of time to ease those transitions somewhat. As you get to the end of your first year with us, please let us know what additional information could have been included here that would have helped you so that we can do a better job of welcoming new staff each and every year.
The absolute best thing you can do, however, is to contact returning staff members from your school. If you are reading this and still do not have any contact information from the school you are joining, please call the main number at our district office at 907-374-9400. There will be people working in our district office all summer long and we can help provide some numbers for you.
Moving to Alaska
Save for extreme cases, most people simply mail everything they need up to their community. Unless you have contacted returning school staff and they have helped you make alternative arrangements, we recommend you mail your packages to the school in care of yourself. For example, if you worked at the school in Allakaket, you would address everything to:
c/o Name of School
Village Name, AK 997XX
You can begin sending things up as soon as you are hired and continue to do so during the summer as there are school staff picking up mail all during the summer break. In most cases your boxes will be stored at the school until your arrival. Most villages offer mail service at the USPS office 5-6 days a week. In general the address format listed above will be enough to get your packages safely to school.
You definitely want to be aware of the fact that it can take 2-3 weeks for boxes mailed parcel post from the lower-48 to arrive in our communities. You can certainly mail things priority mail, but you pay a premium for that – better to get organized and mail things early. As for the weight of your packages, there are two schools of thought. The first being that the fewer boxes the better. There is some mathematical reasoning to back this up as well, since it is cheaper to send one 40-pound box than two 20-pound boxes. Mind you, as long as it meets overall dimension criteria, the USPS will accept packages up to 70 pounds. The other school of thought is that it is likely a lot easier to get your package to the post office you are mailing it from than it will be for you to get it home in the village. Another consideration is that the heavier the box, the more awkward it is to handle and the more opportunities it will get dropped somewhere along the way.Tape is cheap, much cheaper than replacing items that get lost when boxes explode for one reason or another. You also want to label your boxes clearly.
While several carriers come to Alaska, most of our staff soon begin flying with Alaska Airlines and their travel partners to build up frequent flyer miles. You can contact Alaska Airlines at 800-426-0333 . Once you get to Fairbanks, staff fly to the villages via Ravn Alaska, Warbelow Air Ventures and Wright Air Service. You always want to personally verify your flights to the village. Flight schedules change and it is your responsibility to keep track of this information.
Local carriers are:
Ravn Alaska - services all Allakaket, Huslia, Kaltag, Koyukuk, Nulato & Ruby
Phone: (907) 450-7250
Wright Air Service – services Allakaket, Hughes, Huslia, Kaltag, Koyukuk, Nulato & Ruby
Phone: (907) 474-0502
Warbelow's Air - sevices Manley Hot Springs, Minto & Rampart
Phone: (907) 474-0518
Depending on the community and the flight, you may be on a plane which seats anywhere from 5 – 19 passengers. Planes may be single or twin-engine and some are turbine powered. You definitely want to be aware of baggage restrictions. Alaska Airlines allows you to check two pieces which may not exceed 50 pounds each, while most of our regional carriers allow you to check 50 pounds total. Anything above and beyond that is considered excess baggage and you will have to pay about 80 cents per pound to take that baggage to your village. You obviously want to carefully consider what you are taking on the plane with you. Though you are certain to get tired of hearing it, all our travel is weather permitting. Flights can be cancelled for a variety of reason in any season: icing, fog, whiteout, mechanical, etc. There is no use getting upset because it will not make a difference. The pilots who fly in our region are very competent professionals. When they say they are not going to fly due to weather or that they are holding for weather to improve, just accept their decision. Most returning staff leave themselves an extra day when traveling in or out just in case delays occur.
Passing Through Fairbanks
Most of our returning staff schedule a couple of days in Fairbanks on the way back to the village to shop and mail some foodstuffs, paper products and other supplies. If you are coming up in July or August, be prepared, as this is when hotel rates are at their highest. Call well in advance for reservations, since Fairbanks hotels are quite busy during tourist season.
Various rental car companies are represented at a counter at the airport in Fairbanks and you can use the national numbers to make reservations. You will also find Walmart, Fred Meyer, Costco and many other stores from food to hardware to hobbies. Bring along some pre-made labels and then purchase yourself a tape gun and packing tape. You can purchase boxes from U-Haul, Fred Meyer, or any shipping company. Most of our employees utilize the Post Office out by the airport. If you have more than 10 boxes, you can go around to the back during normal business hours, otherwise you will have to take all your boxes inside and wait in line.
Every community in our district has at least one store. Keep in mind that everything has to be flown in and this will affect both availability and price. Prices in your community stores are at least 50-75% above what you might pay in your hometown. Most of the stores work hard to keep produce and dairy items in stock, but these are popular items and they tend to go fast. Meat prices are also very high and the selection generally limited. While many people in our communities do shopping in Fairbanks and order things through the mail, we still recommend that you do some of your shopping through the local stores, if for no other reason than it gives you more exposure to the community. It is good public relations for you to support local businesses to some degree and it gives you opportunities to meet more people in a setting other than the school.
You can also set up an account with Fred Meyer in Fairbanks. They allow you to shop via the mail, fax, or internet and they box and mail your purchases. They are fast and efficient and charge the same prices they do on the floor of their stores in Fairbanks. They charge actual postage and a 10% handling fee that is very reasonable given how well they pack things and how quickly they get things out the door.
Unless you have made other arrangements, all teacher housing is either owned or leased by the district and then leased back to staff at a subsidized rate which includes electricity, heat, water, sewer and wifi ($735 per month). All district housing has basic furnishings (beds, chairs, other furniture and major appliances). Housing units have limited freezer space and may share laundry facilities. It is your responsibility to provide your personal furnishing items like bedding, curtains, shower curtains, dishes, towels, small appliances, etc. It is a good idea to contact your principal or a returning staff member to try to determine what your residence is like and to find out exactly what you need to bring up with you.
Professional attire is likely to be less formal than what you may be used it, but it also varies from one school to another. It is recommended that you visit with your principal or a returning staff member to find out what is appropriate at your school.
It is very difficult for anyone else to describe the clothing required to make it comfortably through the winter up here. It obviously depends on how much time you wish to spend outdoors. The best advice I have ever heard was to bring the warmest clothes you have and then look at what everyone else has. People up here will help you figure out what you need and where you can place an order.
Once the sun starts coming back in the spring and reflecting off all the snow and ice, one thing you are going to want is a pair of polarized sunglasses, for the glare can get quite intense.
There are as many opportunities for recreation as we have employees and of course they vary greatly from community to community. Each and every community will offer options in which you can participate, though the ability to be comfortable entertaining yourself is a great mid-winter attribute. Among our staff you will find those who enjoy: hunting, reading, hiking, sewing, fishing, listening to and making music, cards, photography, painting, skiing, running, watching movies and virtually any other normal pastime.
Many, if not most staff members eventually purchase either an ATV or a snowmobile (though once you get here we call them snowmachines) for traveling in and around their community. Staff from your community can provide guidance for you in terms of what would be most appropriate in your community. Expect to pay roughly $6,000 for either. This again is a purchase that may be best left until you have spent at least a little time in your village so you have a better idea of what will work best for you (truly, it is not a good thing to show up with a brand new Polaris ATV in a Honda village).
Opportunities for staff members to hunt and fish vary greatly from one community to another. You should be aware that Alaska requires 12 months of residency to qualify for a resident license and that non-resident licenses are much more expensive. If you are interesting in participating in fishing and hunting you should:
- Check out your options with returning staff members to your school
- Check with airlines regarding the transport of weapons
- Check on the availability of licenses (these are generally always available in Fairbanks)
Each community has health clinic that is staffed by health aides. Severe cases are medevac'd to Fairbanks. There is dental care available in Fairbanks. Flights are expensive and schedules very busy when you first arrive, so you want to make certain you have your pre-employment physical completed before you come up.
Perhaps the best thing you can do when you come to one of our communities is to remember that you are moving into a small town which is probably quite a bit unlike any you have known in your life. It is your responsibility to learn how to fit into the community. Do not be quick to pass judgment on things which are unfamiliar or which you do not understand. This actually transcends cultural boundaries – this is just a good sense anytime you are moving into a small town. Take the time to learn about your community and its residents. While you are going to be very busy those first few months, take the time to get out and walk around, go to the post office, store and other public areas in town. Meet people and start to get to know more about them as they begin to know more about you. While your role in town is largely defined by your job, it is important for you to develop relationships that go beyond the walls of the school or your housing unit.
Fall is generally fairly mild, with a good deal of rain and wind. At the beginning of the school year you will have a great deal of daylight. Depending on how early you arrive, it might not actually reach full darkness, instead hovering at something similar to deep dusk for a few hours. Temperatures can get low enough that you might even see some snowflakes toward the end of September, but this will quickly melt. Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, things will begin to freeze, the snow will start to stick and the snowmachines replace the ATVs. This is the beginning of a long winter. We lose between five to seven minutes of daylight each day. In the middle of winter you will come to school in the dark and go home in the dark. We get a few hours of weak sunlight during the middle of the day that offers virtually no warmth. Winter brings very low temperatures; it is not uncommon to see -30°F or even -40°F several times during winter. The importance of warm winter gear cannot be stressed enough. A warm parka, snow pants, hat, scarf, gloves, snow boots, and ice cleats will become necessary items in your wardrobe.
You will need to remember that, as is the case with many factors of living in Bush Alaska, all travel is done at the mercy of the weather, which means that there is a small chance that you won't always make it to Fairbanks in time to make connections if you plan on flying to the Lower 48 for the holiday break. Likewise, if you do travel somewhere, be prepared to have your stay extended if the weather is not cooperating for your return back to the village. Days can go by without planes coming in to deliver mail or shipments for the local store.
After the winter solstice we gain daylight at the same rate we lost it in the fall. By March temperatures are climbing and you will marvel at how warm 0°F feels after you have survived the winter. Spring can bring gorgeous days filled with sunshine and gentle breezes, but it also brings fog and the occasional blizzard.
Relocation Advice From Those Who Really Know
That ends the basic info package, but there obviously has to be more to it than that. There is an old saying that opinions are like something else that everyone has, but in Alaska, opinions are like fishing poles; everyone has several and we have collected them through the years as we gain experience and knowledge. Lots of folks have moved to our region. They come from a variety of places and for a variety of reasons, but they all had to make that initial transition.
As the years go by and you become more immersed in your surroundings, you tend to forget what that move up here was like. In order to give you the best information possible, we are asking the staff members who have joined us most recently to offer their words of advice. They have been here a few months now and can tell you what they wished they had done differently or advise you on things you need to do or bring with you. This space is open for contributions by any of our staff members, but the purpose of this space is to let our staff who have most recently relocated to our region share their experiences with you. Veteran staff members are encouraged to add to any area of this section of our website by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org