The debate continues: Should Eagle River and Chugiak high schools combine?
Like a boomerang, the idea of combining Eagle River and Chugiak high schools continues to come back to the Anchorage School Board. And people's opinions are mixed.
The discussion just after the November 30, 2018 earthquake was to possibly combine students from the two high schools into Chugiak High’s building and place Gruening Middle School students into Eagle River High’s building.
The staff at Eagle River High School was not part of those meetings or discussions, so an ad hoc committee took a closer look at the possibility.
"I formed an ad hoc committee when we were talking about this and it was probably about 50-50 on whether we should merge the two schools or not," school board president Starr Marsett said.
The Anchorage School District asked for feedback from families with an online survey about short-term plans, but people responded with ideas about the long-term plan of possibly combining the schools too.
District superintendent Deena Bishop said, of the people who weighed in, about two-thirds supported combining the schools, while one-third supported keeping them separate.
There are online petitions for both sides of the argument trending the other way. A petition in favor of combining has just under 1,000 votes as of Friday morning; the petition against combining had about 2,200 votes.
ASD Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth says combining the schools isn’t a good plan and will put the community back into a situation similar to 2005. That’s when Eagle River High School formed due to crowded hallways and parking lots at Chugiak High.
According to Roth, Chugiak is currently at 85% capacity with 590 Gruening students. He says bringing in Eagle River's student body would find Chugiak at 110% capacity and putting Gruening students at Eagle River High School’s building on their own — even with adding sixth graders — would have the high school at about 55% capacity.
One factor being considered is that the future points to more growth in the area.
"We look at future planning, and what the muni is telling us is that is an area of growth. And if we were to merge two schools now, in two years we might be looking at them separating again," Marsett said.
The bottom line is there is no clear cut or unanimous mindset among the communities of Chugiak and Eagle River or leadership bodies.
Community members will have a chance to voice their opinions next month, as Anchorage Assembly members Crystal Kennedy and Fred Dyson say they’re planning to host a town hall meeting.
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