2018 School bond to focus on safety improvements
On Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly gave the 2018 school bond its first reading. The bond will be back on the Assembly agenda in January for vote or modification before it makes its way to ballot on April 3.
This past April, voters approved a $58.5 million bond. The year before that, voters shot down a $49 million bond.
"We did do a survey in our community and 60 percent of the respondents suggested that they would support a bond that focuses on safety and infrastructure," Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said. "We are looking at saving our assets and making improvements to meet city code."
The bond includes capital improvement projects at 15 locations including roof replacements, improvements, fire suppression, seismic, safety and code upgrades. East High School is one of those schools in dire need of upgrades.
"This high school, like all the others, have been tracking through a planning process," planning and design supervisor Krista Phillips said. "The last major update to planning for this school was documented in 1999. It's due time to take another look comprehensively what can happen at East. We want to understand how do we make East a 21st-century school."
Three items on the 2018 proposed school bond address three critical needs for East High School. Roof damage due to seismic activity, a fully operational fire suppression system and planning and design projects.
"There is about 2,000 students here," Phillips said. "That represents almost 5 percent of the total students in the school district. There are 12 elementary schools and three middle schools feeding this school. It's a very significant amount of students that end up here."
Since the early 2000s, the state of Alaska mandated that all education facilities have a fire suppression system in them. For the Anchorage School District, that has meant that an incremental plan is put in place to install the systems.
"Safety is one of the main themes that we have proposed to take care of business, if you will," Phillips said. "There are four schools right now in the district that don't have either partial or complete fire suppression systems. By taking care of East, we'll be able to scratch that one off our list."
Three of those schools are on the 2018 bond. East High School, Service High School and Abbott Loop Elementary. The estimated cost to upgrade all three schools is around $16 million.
"To install the fire suppression systems, typically you have to impact the ceilings in these older buildings to do the work efficiently," Phillips said. "If you're going to impact the ceilings you might as well consider what is the opportunity at hand. That would be to improve the energy efficiency of the lighting with LED lights."
It also gives the district a chance to look at the structural elements. Especially any seismic damage that may have occurred over the years.
"Small cracks are esthetic but larger cracks and structural issue are what we are after," ASD Capital Planning and Construction senior director Tom Fenoseff said. "As part of the comprehensive program, when we look at bonds and look at upgrading a school or replacing certain things in it, we're also looking at providing that analysis on seismic. We want to provide the most up to date schools. Many of them, especially this one built around 1960, did not have the type of code required seismically."
Fenoseff says the buildings are perfectly safe but there are now some better ideas on how to build.
"If you look around here, in the wrestling room, you'll see some netting on the ceilings," Fenoseff said. "It's there if any of the ceiling falls apart it is captured. Defiantly a considerable need in this part of the school."
If the bond makes it to the 2018 April ballot and passes, it would cost taxpayers just over $16.00 per $300,000 home. Schools on the 2018 bond for improvements include roof projects at: Mears MS, Birchwood ABC, Homestead, Ptarmigan and North Star Elementary for a total of $29,812,500.00.
Seven roof Improvements to Kincaid, Northern Lights ABC, Bowman, Trailside, Russian Jack, Kasuun and Lake Hood Elementary schools for a total of $3,528,000.00.
Safety and code upgrades to Abbott Loop Elementary, East and Service high schools at a cost of $16,011,000.00.
East High School would also receive a little over $1 million for planning and design projects. The total cost of the 2018 school bond is $50,656,500.00.
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