How repairing Gruening Middle School helps the entire school district
It’s going to take millions of dollars to get Gruening Middle School repaired and ready for classes again after it was severely damaged during last year’s 7.1 earthquake. A new bond proposal aims to do that.
Walking through the dimly lit hallways Friday, principal Bobby Jefts stopped and pointed at a handwritten sign hanging on the wall.
"This was a dance that never happened," he said.
In an eighth-grade science classroom, Jefts said he’s seen a lot of reminders of what the school used to be like before the earthquake. “This is the weekly agenda for the week, and you can see on Wednesday is introduction to plate tectonics and plate tectonic exploration on Thursday, and then we had the earthquake."
More untold stories like that are hidden like buried treasure throughout the building. While it's interesting to connect the dots and reminisce on what once was, Jefts really wants his school back and hopes that happens with a bond proposal.
Anchorage School District Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth said, "It's the right thing to do. People talk about is there really a need?"
After many conversations with the Eagle River and Chugiak communities, the Anchorage School Board and an ad hoc committee, Roth says the answer is yes. One reason, Roth believes, is because the Gruening student body is cramped in the space they’re currently in.
"Gruening has a very vibrant, large population of kids and they are stuffed into Chugiak [High School]," he said.
Roth says there are no plans to demolish or do away with Gruening. Rather, the plan is to get the school back online as soon as possible.
In front of the school board is a 2020 bond proposal. As it stands, the bond is nearly $80 million to repair the more than a dozen schools throughout ASD that were affected by last year’s quake.
More than half of the bond — about $43 million — is dedicated to Gruening. But why should voters in Anchorage care about a school in Eagle River?
"We're one municipality at the end of the day," Roth said. "I think the way we think, we take care of each other."
Roth says the school district doesn't look at geographical areas, just the needs. And getting Gruening back online is one of them.
"It's about doing the right thing, the fair thing," Roth said. "It's doing what’s needed. This is a time when— the earthquake seemed to affect Eagle River, Chugiak schools in a disproportionate way."
Roth says voters won't only be helping the Eagle River schools but the others across the district.
"What goes around comes around," Roth said. "There may be times when if you, say, live in South Anchorage and you have a school in need. The district is going to come address that, but you know who's picking up the tab? The entire community. So the people up north are picking up that bill as well."
The Anchorage School Board will vote on the proposed bond and any amendments that are to be included on Tuesday night.
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