Construction workers, contractors and engineers are almost done repairing Nov. 30 earthquake damage across the Anchorage School District before Monday's return of students and staff from their three-week holiday break.

"We're working to make these schools better and stronger than they were," said Sean Hickel, a project manager with Roger Hickel Contracting. "A lot of the cracks are superficial and have nothing to do with structural damage."

At Dimond High School, repairing as many of those cracks as possible is still essential to students feeling safe. While some work can be pushed to a later date, fixing what students can see is paramount.

"It's just looks bad," said RHC superintendent Charlie Dolling. "We don't want the kids to see it and scare them; they may still think the building may come crashing down with another earthquake. We're trying to make this look as nice as we can."

Dimond and Bartlett high schools, Bear Valley and Fairview elementary schools and Hanshew Middle School were some of the district's hardest hit in Anchorage. At Dimond, that work included repairs to four soffit overhangs.

"Some of it busted away from the ceiling," Hickel said. "We're reinforcing them and using better and bigger screws in the deck."

"It's a lot stronger than it ever was," Dolling said. "It was just sitting on an air duct, and that's pretty scary." 

Although most carpet replacements, painting and reinforcements are nearly complete, some sections of schools will remain blocked off.

"At Bartlett the old cafeteria will stay closed," Hickel said. "Here at Dimond the stage has damage. Chugiak and Eagle River are dealing with their own issues, but all schools will be ready."

Both Anchorage and Mat-Su schools are set to reopen Monday, after the magnitude 7.0 temblor that caused most schools to shut down for at least a full week.

Despite the lost days, ASD doesn't plan on extending the school calendar. The district's decision leaves one day off remaining to use for bad weather.

"We missed a total of five days," Anchorage School Board President Starr Marsett said. "We get two days for weather and the district will use one of them. The state education director has the power to waive three days, and we'll make up another day during parent-teacher conferences."

The ASD calendar now lists students' final day of school on May 22, with teachers' final day on May 23. 

"[Education Commissioner Michael Johnson] has been really responsive," said MSBSD spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey. "He came to the Mat-Su right after the earthquake and immediately asked questions as how he could help remove barriers and challenges in the district. He gave us exemptions from these school closure days."

The final day of school for Mat-Su students will be May 23, with the final day for teachers to follow on May 24.

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