Unalaska school district goes $15k over budget chartering planes after fatal PenAir crash

When Unalaska last looked into wind power there was no technology strong enough to withstand the island’s wind. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)

The fallout from last month’s fatal plane crash is hurting the Unalaska City School District’s budget.

In the wake of the accident, RavnAir Group suspended regular flights to and from Anchorage for about four weeks.

During that time, Superintendent John Conwell said the district had to pay for expensive charters for traveling sports teams, student government reps and school board members, as well as cover unexpected hotel stays.

“We ran some rough numbers, and it looks like we’re running between $15,000 and $18,000 over budget because of some of these disruptions,” said Conwell at a school board meeting on Thursday.

Related: Read additional coverage of the PenAir crash.

Going forward, the district is expected to incur additional unbudgeted costs for staff and student travel. That’s because Alaska Airlines has canceled all existing reservations through May 31, 2020, rebooking them through Ravn, while Ravn has suspended the Saab 2000 aircraft indefinitely in favor of the smaller, slower DeHavilland Dash 8.

As a result, Conwell said ticket prices are higher — and the district can’t buy reservations with miles from its corporate Alaska Airlines card.

He also said the past month of dealing with travel problems has put the district behind on its other plans, including scheduling the next school safety drill.  

“Everything that happened with this plane crash … It’s amazing, the domino effect it’s had, just putting us all behind schedule on some of the things we wanted to accomplish this year,” he said.

Conwell said he’s hopeful the district can start catching up now that Unalaska knows where it stands with flight service — at least for the foreseeable future.

To account for the increased spending, he said the school board will consider a budget amendment at its meeting next month.

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