2 Eagle River schools eye fall openings as earthquake repairs continue

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:44 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - More than two years after Eagle River Elementary was rocked by 2018′s Nov. 30 earthquake, repairs are still underway. The road to actual renovation work took time, but project manager Nick Bell tells Alaska’s News Source that work at the school is on schedule to be completed sometime in late July.

“We worked on this 18 months, to get to the point where we started construction at the end of May, beginning of June, 2020,” he said.

According to Bell, the North End of the building saw the most damage from the quake — specifically the gymnasium and the brick facade. He also says repairs are only one part of the equation, several improvements are also expected to enhance the buildings safety features and teachers abilities to educate their students. He estimates that in total, the repairs and improvements will cost around $16 million.

“The corridors are going to be the same, the classrooms will be in the same spot ... but it’s going to be a different environment,” he said. “I think it will be a great educational environment for the students and the staff.”

Just five minutes away, another school is also in the midst of extensive repairs. Yuki Jansen is the person serving as Anchorage School District’s project manager for the remodel of Gruening Middle School. She’s been involved in talks over the future of the school since 2013.

“Replacing the school was going to be about $70 million, versus repairing and remodeling was about $35-40 million,” she said. “Nobody wanted to go all the way with school replacement.”

Principal Bobby Jefts is eagerly monitoring progress at the school. His staff and students were temporarily relocated to Chugiak High School in 2018, but he says teachers and students are eager to be back at home once construction wraps up.

“For years, it’s probably been six or seven years that we talked about a remodel and it’s unfortunate that it took an earthquake to get to this point, but that’s what it took and we are excited.”

At Gruening, work is on schedule to wrapped by late August, when teachers and students are slated to make their long-awaited return to classrooms.

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