Anchorage School Board passes $82 million bond for earthquake repairs
On Tuesday night, the Anchorage School Board passed a school bond package that includes funding for improvement projects at Aquarian Charter School. The bond now sits at just over $82 million and will make its way before the Anchorage Assembly in December for approval.
"Well we knew it was going to be a long process," said School Board President Starr Marsett. "We knew there were different ideas on how the bond should be approached but ultimately, the bond that was proposed is the bond that passed with an addition of $6.8 million for Aquarian capital improvements."
The higher price tag comes with the recommendation by the administration that another bond doesn't hit voters until 2022. The high number concerns Marsett and fellow board member Dave Donley.
"My calculations indicate that this package is now $82,833,000 which is $28,193,000 beyond the projected 2020 debt retirement, and that's not adjusted for the increased impact debt for the lack of the school debt retirement program," Donley said.
Donley stressed that there is no promise for what the board may ask for next year. He also said his prime concern was not included in the bond.
"My top priority is not on here, which is hardening our schools to defend our kids against external threats," Donley said. "That doesn't even show up on the six-year plan now until three years from now, which I feel is really concerning."
The bond includes nearly $40 million to repair Gruening Middle School in Eagle River — a decision that had many from Eagle River and Chugiak concerned.
Some people voiced saving the money and combining Eagle River and Chugiak high schools. It's a decision the community wants more input on. A meeting is set to listen to their concerns, and school board member Elisa Vakalis wanted to ensure the board's decision doesn't negate what happens at the meeting.
"Before we take a vote on this, I would like to make sure I understand the process or the community understands the process, what is going to happen from here forward and that their voice at this town hall is not in vain, and it's not too late and it's not whatever,” Vakalis said.
Tom Roth, Anchorage School District Chief Operating Officer, says future growth points to the north and the board already had a lengthy discussion about what the community wanted to do. An ad hoc committee was formed and there was no clear consensus.
"When we talk about consolidation, and I know a lot of people feel pretty strongly about that, and that's understandable," Roth said. "But I've got about 950 Eagle River High School kids, so let's just kind of picture that relocation into Chugiak —950 to 600. How many ‘relos’ do you think we're going to have out there?"
Roth says it brings the area back to an environment it had some 20 years ago that led to the creation of Eagle River High School. Nonetheless, Donley says the high bond may be a hard sell to voters.
Vakalis says the town hall to address concerns around Chugiak and Eagle River high schools is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 9.
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