New F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base have local schools preparing for influx

Badger Road Elementary School (Photo by Robyne, KUAC – Fairbanks)

The basing of F-35 fighters at Eielson Air Force Base will increase the number of school-age kids in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

A federally-funded borough growth plan projects a six percent increase over the next decade. That equates to adding 1,900 students to an existing baseline of 30,000 kids through 2030. Consultant Shelly Beck shared education aspects of the plan with the school board at a meeting Tuesday night. Beck says most of the additional students will be elementary age.

”That’s not surprising as we have a lot of young families that come as part of our active duty personnel,” Beck said.

Beck says the new students can be accommodated if spread out district-wide, but most will go to North Pole area schools.

”So we see, with the elementary schools and with the middle schools that we’re starting to reach a place where, potentially, we would not have the capacity to take on these new 17-and-under school-age kids,” Beck said.

Beck says projections indicate there will only be enough revenue to cover the cost of additional students until 2025.

”You have an increased number of school-aged children, who do not pay taxes, that are a percentage of your total population,” Beck said.

The school board has scheduled an October work session to thoroughly go over the Eielson growth plan which also includes strategies for addressing challenges and opportunities presented by the F-35 basing.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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