Gruening Middle School students will be relocating to Chugiak High School through the end of the academic year due to ongoing repairs from earthquake damage.

The announcement was made in a Wednesday afternoon news conference by Anchorage School District superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop and chief operating officer Tom Roth.

"This afternoon the school district made the difficult decision to close Gruening Middle School for the foreseeable future," Bishop said. "The repair to the building will be extensive and it cannot be done with students inside."

Roth said that while structural engineers have said the building is sound, the repairs will be extensive. 

"Some of the concrete facade inside has broken away and may be removed completely. A gas leak was also found in the building near the cafeteria. A stairwell on the east side also sustained damage," Roth said, listing the damage. "For these reasons, the school district decided to relocate the students to Chugiak High School."

There is no timeline on when repairs will be finished, but Roth said students should expect to be at Chugiak for the rest of the academic year.

In an email sent by ASD, Greuning Middle School principal Bobby Jefts called the move a "monumental task."

"At the heart of this matter is the safety of our students and staff," Jefts said. "We understand the potential inconveniences and emotions that go into these types of decisions; however, all departments in the District are working diligently to ensure a smooth transition."

Students will be starting in the new school on Tuesday, Dec. 11,  just one day after the rest of the district. ASD officials will decide on a plan to deliver the items left behind in lockers by Gruening students to Chugiak, Jefts said. Nursing and cafeteria staff from Gruening will also move to Chugiak to assist with special needs students.

In the conference, Roth said that students who usually take the bus will continue to catch the bus at the same time, it will just be rerouted to Chugiak. Students who walk to school are asked to stick to their normal routine as well, and will be picked up in the Gruening parking lot at 7:45 a.m. for transportation to Chugiak.

"We ask for your patience and understanding as we work through this process," Jefts said. "I have been really touched by the outpouring of support from our Gruening community. I am honored and humbled to be the principal of your child’s middle school. We will work together to ensure a smooth transition for our students."

Scott Gross contributed to this story.

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