Anchorage School District releases more information about school closed because of earthquake danger
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District says Ursa Major Elementary School on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson isn’t safe for students to occupy now that engineers have reported it could collapse during an earthquake.
The district’s Director of Operations and Maintenance Rob Holland said the 70-year-old building withstood both the 1964 and the 2018 earthquakes with remarkably little damage. The school was deemed safe to occupy after an initial inspection following the 2018 quake, Holland said. Engineers who were doing a deeper inspection for a future remodeling project at the school turned up serious problems, concluding that the school could collapse during a big earthquake.
“The calculations are indicating that the building falls below ‘collapse prevention’ in a major seismic event,” Holland said.
The preliminary report also said the building could fail in a smaller quake.
“They also did indicate that it could also fail ‘collapse prevention’ in a lesser event, which is a 20% probability within 50 years,” Holland said.
On Monday the district informed parents of the nearly 400 children who attend Ursa Major that their school would not be reopening in the fall, nor for the rest of the school year.
“We don’t want to move families out and then move them back in partway through the year,” Holland said. “We have a chance to do this right, to the best of our ability right now before school starts. To make a move like this during the school year would be far more stressful.”
But what parents haven’t been told is what school their children will be attending when school starts on August 18. Holland said the goal is to keep all the students at schools located on JBER.
“We are looking at capacity we do have to move those families to other base schools,” Holland said. “We are redoing our bus routes to accommodate that, we will move teachers, we will move support staff. The capacity’s there to do that. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of work that has to happen really quick. "
The district is expecting a final report from the engineering firm in the first week of August. Holland said that will give them a much better idea of what the issues are at the school and how much it might cost to fix them.
“It’s far too early to speculate,” Holland said. “We do not consider this a permanent closure. We will wait for the final report. We will wait for the scope and cost estimates of the work, and then we’ll have information that we need to make a decision.”
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