ASD says new report confirms decision to close Ursa Major Elementary School over safety concerns
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Engineers told the Anchorage School District in late July the 70-year-old building on JBER had significant structural issues and could collapse during an earthquake. Now PND Engineering has issued a written report that further details their findings.
Engineers found cracks they believe came from the 1964 earthquake, which had a magnitude of 9.2 but concluded the building could fail in an earthquake of a magnitude of 6.0. Something the report noted was not uncommon in the Anchorage Bowl.
Considering the major safety issues, District Spokesperson Lisa Miller said the district made the right call when it decided to close Ursa Major and send students and staff to other schools. She said the district is analyzing the report now and will likely get a second opinion when it starts assessing the costs involved.
“That’s the next step, is understanding the costs to repair the building to make these seismic upgrades and repairs to make it safe for students and staff to return,” said Miller. “It may be a while before dollar figures are available.”
In the meantime, students from Ursa Major have been shifted to three other schools on base. The district says their new schools may be crowded, but they’ve found enough space, so student-teacher ratios shouldn’t be affected.
But while the district initially said it would provide transportation for Ursa Major students to their new schools, on Thursday, Miller said base students would also be subject to rotating bus route suspensions that will last six weeks. Miller said they’re hoping to reverse that situation as soon as possible.
“They are top priority because we know those families are already facing hardship with this relocation,” she said. “So when we start to hire additional bus drivers, and as soon as we are able to expand the routes, that’s going to be the first community that we pivot to.”
Miller said it’s too soon to know whether Ursa Major will be open next school year, but for planning purposes, the district is assuming it won’t.
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