Anchorage Planning to Spend $36M to Fix Schools Damaged in Big Quake

March 21, 2019

Anchorage school officials have approved a plan calling for $36.3 million to repair two schools damaged by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that shook south-central Alaska.

The school board voted Monday for the plan to fix Gruening Middle School and Eagle River Elementary, which have been closed since the Nov. 30 quake, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

A school district committee had recommended the plan, deciding against the more expensive option of demolishing and rebuilding the schools.

Repairing the middle school is expected to cost $24.2 million, while the elementary school requires about $12.1 million in fixes, said George Vakalis, school district consultant. Both schools need new roofs and seismic upgrades.

Demolishing and rebuilding the middle school was estimated at $76.7 million, while building a new Eagle River Elementary was expected to cost $34.9 million.

District officials expect it will take two years to repair the schools. Middle-school students will continue attending classes at Chugiak High School. The elementary students will be divided between the other elementary schools in Eagle River.

The repairs are expected to be funded by a mixture of sources, including state and federal funding and a bond that would require voter approval, Vakalis said. The district has been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the plan, and it expects to hear about federal funding soon, he said.

The middle school has a history of structural and design flaws, prompting some to support the demolish option. Committee member Kaleigh Wotring had testified against the plan, telling board members that she thinks it is a short-term solution.

“Fixing instead of rebuilding just to get kids back into a building more quickly is just kicking the can down the road,” Wotring said.

Architectural and engineering reports indicate the schools can be repaired and made better, district officials have said.


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