Houston Middle to stay closed for years following earthquake damage
Houston Middle School will be closed for at least two to three more years due to extensive damage caused by the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake.
Mat-Su School District administrators met with parents and staff Thursday night to discuss the options going forward.
Executive director of operations Mike Brown outlined three measures:
- Tear down and replace the entire building
- Repair the entire building
- A repair/replace combo
Brown explained the 30-year-old building was constructed in three parts. Engineers told the district the administrative wing and gym could likely be repaired but that the two-story classroom wing, which took the brunt of the damage from the earthquake, should be torn down.
“What our engineer is telling us is he would not approve a repair, essentially. He’s recommending we upgrade that code,” Brown said.
Staff and parents had concerns about only replacing part of the school.
“By taking care of the academic wing and fixing up the other wings is that really beneficial to the taxpayers and the children in the long run?” asked night custodian Lisa Johansen.
Houston sixth-grade science teacher Kelly Schnittker said she was worried rebuilding a new school might mean small classrooms.
“The upcoming budget scares of more kids into a classroom, and more kids to account for should another thing happen, is a concern. I don’t want something to be rebuilt and be smaller just to fit a budget,” Schnittker said.
Another issue is the temporary set up at the new Houston Jr./Sr. High where nearly 800 students from seven grade levels are crammed into the hallways and portable classrooms.
Junior Eli Knapp said he’d like his peers to have their input heard as the district continues the design process.
“When you talk about these things, you talk about them from a sort of detached perspective, this is the money, the square foot,” Knapp said. “It’s important to get the opinion of the people who are going to be spending seven, eight hours a day here.”
Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette said the district will be making changes to the campus —including the construction of two new portables — over the summer to better accommodate the large volume of students for the foreseeable future.
But she stressed it was still a temporary fix.
“There was some concern I think based on some comments made by elected officials that we've made this work, but we are working to reopen Houston,” Goyette said.
The superintendent said it could still be up to three months before the district hears back from the insurance company about what spending it will cover. Depending on which option is chosen, the middle school could reopen in December 2021 or August 2022.
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