Ayaprun School power plant arrives in Newtok

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Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 3:46 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 8:05 PM AKST
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BETHEL, Alaska (KTUU) - The Ayaprun School in Newtok has a new generator, but still no power, according to the school principal.

The new generator arrived in town on Monday. Speaking by phone around 5:30 p.m. Monday, Ayaprun School Principal Dawn Lloyd said the generator was being towed via a “convoy of snowmachine” from the airport to the school.

The next step will be the generator’s installation, which Lloyd said has no timetable. She said there will be an electrician and diesel mechanic in charge of setting it up.

“It’ll take a little bit of effort, running lines and (doing) electrical work to get it hooked up and running,” Lloyd said. “And that’s assuming that the electrical in the school was not damaged in the fire.”

Lloyd said the school is in the process of building a platform for the new generator located right next to where the old one burned down. The generator, purchased by the Lower Kuskokwim School District, was stuck in Bethel over the weekend as poor weather prevented air travel.

The school is operating partly out of the village’s lone church, Holy Family Catholic Church, with the other classes operating via distance learning.

“It was not great because they don’t have whiteboard or desks or anything like that,” Lloyd said. “Imagine church with kids on pews and nothing for teachers to write on. But we were happy to do it. And everybody agreed that it was better than not having school.”

The school, which teaches about 40 students, lost all electricity and water when a fire broke out in an outbuilding adjacent to the schoolhouse on Thursday, Jan. 26. The incident temporarily cut off the village of approximately 350 people from clean water, until the community was able to find a way to access the water stored at the water plant.

The school had two generators running in an outbuilding by the school. The water system in the school was turned off due to the potential threat of frozen water bursting the pipes.

During the time of extreme water shortage, the village contacted the LKSD and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for bottled water.

According to earlier reporting, the fire burned for several hours before community members finally quenched it. The community and school district brought out spare generators to Newtok in the days after the fire. However, they were found to be incompatible with the school’s power system. Besides the school power plant, there is a community power plant.