Although almost all Anchorage School District facilities are up and running after last month's massive southcentral Alaska earthquake, some repair efforts are continuing nearly a month later.

After the Nov. 30 quake, the district closed schools for the following week to assess and repair any damaged caused by the 7.0 magnitude jolt. True to its word, all but two schools were back open for students and staff on Dec. 10. 

Nathan Cousineau, a project engineer with Eklutna Construction and Maintenance, credits teachers alongside contractors with aiding in the smooth recovery. He says they did a great job of explaining to the students what was happening, while also being able to work around construction crews and engineers. 

"They did a great job in helping get their classrooms organized," Cousineau said. "Also, the community feel was amazing. They were bringing in food and dishes while opening up the cafeteria and other rooms to serve coffee. It was great to see the community come together."

The three-week school break for the holidays couldn't have come at a better time for the district.

"A lot of the main damage to most of the schools was water damage," said ECM's superintendent, Scott Marshall. "Here at Tyson Elementary the main sprinkler head broke in the library. During the break we tore out two feet of sheetrock and insulation checking for moisture."

The lack of fans and dehumidifiers caused many schools' carpets to need replacing.

"Most of the schools around Anchorage have the same work being done," Marshall said. "Carpet replacement, sheetrock replacement, painting and crack repair. The reason for all the carpet replacement is because of the type of water in the sprinkler system. It's not what you would call clean water. It's hard to clean up and we don't want to have any moisture or mold issues going forward."

"The buildings are sound," Cousineau said. "I mean, Chugiak High School wouldn't be able to house the Gruening (Middle School) students if it wasn't. Some portions of schools are blocked off."

To the north in Eagle River and Chugiak, a new problem is causing work crews to redo some work they have already repaired.

"Aftershocks," Cousineau said. "They are having an impact out here. No major impacts or structural damage but it does get annoying."

Chugiak High School, Chugiak Elementary and Eagle River High School have experienced the most damage due to the aftershocks, which included a 4.9 temblor Thursday morning.

"It's just getting the superficial things done and the schools looking nice that is hard," Cousineau said. "Now there are new cracks that have surfaced over the old cracks. That indicates to us that the aftershocks are having an effect. These cracks were not here a few days ago; it's just more work that needs to be done."

Cousineau and Marshal say the work in all the schools won't truly be done until after the school year, and once the aftershocks subside. 

"We're just doing the best we can right now," Cousineau said. "We want the students and teachers to get back to as much as normal as possible. Al buildings are safe, we're just trying to make them as pretty as we can. Getting the feeling of normal back, whether that be playing a basketball game in a gym or going to the library is the name of the game."

Students return to class on Jan. 7.

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