Aleutian Region School District serves three communities in the Western Aleutian Islands; Nikolski, Atka and Adak. The District, its people and its geography are quite a fascinating story. Its boundary actually crosses over into the Eastern Hemisphere. Although there are no longer any functioning US communities west of Adak, we maintain contact with Russian Aleuts from the Kommander Islands. Therefore, we like to think of ourselves as linking the hemispheres geographically, intellectually and culturally.
While both very small in numbers and remotely located, the history and culture of the Unangax (Aleut) people of this region is ancient and rich. For example, there is evidence of continual habitation in the Village of Nikolski (Chalukax) for over 8,000 years, perhaps as far back as 10,000 years. The Unangax people were among the few on earth to have practiced mummification of the dead, and, there is evidence they successfully performed brain surgery. The iqyax (bairdarka or kayak) designed by the Unangax people represents, scientifically, the most efficient ever built. Historical records chronicle Unangax hunters racing Russian sailing ships over considerable distances, and beating them, from one destination to another. Aleuts, travelling in iqyax, accompanied Russian explorers as far down the west coast of the US as northern California. During the colonial period, Aleut captains commanded ships carry furs back to Russia by way of South America and the Cape of Good Hope. While many indigenous people developed counting systems which were limited to relatively small numbers, the Unagax counting system has no such limitation. Flourishing in a climate which can be harsh and unforgiving testifies to the sophistication and adaptability of the Unangax people.
Today, the area encompassed by the District contains major fishing grounds, which help to feed the world. The Bering Sea is abundant in halibut, pollock, cod and crab (bairdai, opilio and king). There are also salmon, which are fished locally for recreation or subsistence. The region also encompasses wildlife refuges which protect a variety of marine mammals and aquatic birds, many of which are unique to the Aleutians. Adak is home for about 1300 head of trophy class caribou, Atka has reindeer herds, and Nikolski has Hereford cattle, sheep, deer and horses.
ARSD's educational program has qualities which are rather unique and progressive. Aligned with state and national standards, ARSD uses a mastery learning model. Students progress is assessed and reported as a function of their mastery of these standards. Students progress according to their individual abilities and interests. Student placement is along a learning continuum, and, it is a function of content mastery, not seat time; grade levels have functionally been abandoned. Students are involved in selecting which activities will be used to document proficiency and which of these demonstrations will be digitized and kept as an artifactual record of their mastery. Students have the option to move beyond high school level work to college level work before graduation, or, they may complete the high school course of study early to move on to college, university or technical/ career training programs. There is significant use of and reliance upon technology and internet based resources. On-site teaching and programs are suplemented by internet based teaching and management tools. At Aleutian Region, we attempt to envision the school of the future and put that vision into practice today.