A Mitkof Middle School robotics team readies for competitions in 2019. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Mitkof Middle School in Petersburg is one of two in Alaska and among several hundred in the nation to be named a National Blue Ribbon School this year.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos announced this year’s award winning schools on Thursday. Also honored in Alaska is Eagle Academy Charter School in the Anchorage School District. Both are honored for being among the state’s highest performing schools based on standardized testing.

“We just gathered the staff at the beginning of their lunch break and told them, smiles and applause,” said Petersburg’s middle and high school principal Rick Dormer on Thursday. “It is an amazing recognition and please let me be the first to say this has very little to do with just leadership or even just teachers. This is a cool thing for this community, borough of Petersburg. I mean you think about just we have amazing community support.”

Now all three of Petersburg’s schools have been named blue ribbon winners since the start of the nationwide program in 1982. Rae C. Stedman Elementary School was honored in 2006 and Petersburg High School in 1986-87.

Erica Kludt-Painter was principal of the elementary school for the district’s last award and she’s now the superintendent. She hopes for some public event to mark the occasion but acknowledges it won’t be the same during a pandemic.

“It’s been a few years, we were talking about that,” Kludt-Painter said. “Unfortunately there was a pretty incredible opportunity for staff to be even recognized in Washington D.C. They had a big ceremony there and we were able to send a couple of our longtime teachers to that, which was great. And then we did a huge thing in the gym and it was really fun so of course I don’t know. Maybe some other parade. We’re really good at parades in this town, now. So that might be a fun thing to do too.”

Joe Viechnicki spoke with principal Rick Dormer and superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter Thursday about the honor.

Petersburg schools are on the verge of moving to green status for the first time this school year Monday (9/28) and a return to all in-person schooling.

This year 317 public schools and 50 private schools are award winners. The Department of Education plans a virtual award ceremony November 12 and 13. Schools will also receive plaques and flags.