Demolition of Houston Middle School begins

Demolition begins on Houston Middle School damaged by 2018 earthquake.
Demolition begins on Houston Middle School damaged by 2018 earthquake.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 7:28 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Houston Middle School is being torn down.

“It is bittersweet,” says Principal Ben Howard. “It’s something we’ve been waiting for, for a while but at the same time, there’s a lot of people who have graduated from Houston schools so there’s a lot of emotion tied to it. But we’re ready to look to the future and this is the day we’ve been waiting for.”

The school was condemned recently after a structural inspection and analysis found substantial damage caused by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake in 2018.

“Classrooms were destroyed, foundations were cracked, walls were cracked,” says Howard. “So we couldn’t go back to school after what happened with the earthquake.”

Originally the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board had approved plans to rebuild parts of the school like the gym and the administrative wing, but another inspection found catastrophic damage and Mat-Su borough staff said trying to fix the building would only bring it 60% up to code.

Howard says the building was built in 1985 and was more than a school; it was a gathering place for the community.

“I’ve been there for eight years and it’s a community structure,” says Howard. “There have been a lot of different events that have happened at this school so like I said, it’s going to be bittersweet for Houston and Big Lake.”

Demolition should take about 30 days, according to Howard. Then crews will start the process of rebuilding the school.

The estimated cost of tearing down and replacing the building is about $35 million. It is expected to be ready for students by the fall of 2022.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct that it was a structural inspection and analysis that found damage, not an architectural inspection.

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