Gaining back Gruening Middle School

The Eagle River middle school was knocked offline by the Nov. 2018 earthquake
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 3:24 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Construction, abatement, renovations and destruction is currently underway at Gruening Middle School in Eagle River.

“It’s going to be a whole new school,” ASD Project Manager Yuki Janson said. “It’s going to look quite different.”

The ground was broken to begin the renovation projects on Sept. 8.

“Contractors are challenging themselves to have the school ready before the next school,” Janson said.

The school was rocked into submission by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rattled the Anchorage and surrounding area on Nov. 30, 2018. Students were absorbed by Chugiak High School and haven’t returned since.

A wall attached to the gymnasium separated from the ceiling a few inches causing the school to be deemed unsafe.

This was is the reason the school was deemed unsafe as it detached from the ceiling and now...
This was is the reason the school was deemed unsafe as it detached from the ceiling and now uses braces to keep it from falling(Scott Gross)

“You can see that the wall, the gym is on the other side of this wall, it came loose so that’s why we have all the supports,” Janson said. “So what we’re going to do is add a mesh to reinforce the wall and then reattach it. That will make it much stronger.”

Inside the school, crews are busy cleaning out classrooms and removing the lockers.

“They [contractors] are literally attacking everything they can at the same time, so it’s been pretty impressive,” Janson said. “Everything that can be demolished has been demolished. The abatement is the only process that will follow a sequence.”

Outside is where the biggest show is happening this fall with the front parking lot being dug up and a new two-lane bus loading area being carved out in the back.

“The principal, that’s one thing that he always mentioned his staff was concerned about,” Janson said. “We’ve been looking into it since 2013. There was always a concern with the bus drop off and pick up. This is a neighborhood school, I think that this is going to be a major improvement for the way the school works and functions.”

The way the school looks will also be getting a makeover as the heavy outside veneer is being peeled away.

Gruening Middle School in Eagle River is in the early stages of renovations
Gruening Middle School in Eagle River is in the early stages of renovations(Scott Gross)

“Removing all of the veneer is going create a lighter building,” Janson said. “Which is going to help it structurally in the future because the building won’t carry that load so it’s going to withstand an earthquake or future events easier.”

The school will look and feel like a brand new building with added rooms and 21st-century technology.

Both Gruening Middle School and Eagle River Elementary were knocked offline by the earthquake and are each expected to be open and ready for students and staff next fall.

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