Eagle River Elementary, damaged by quake, will remain closed through school year

A crack in the floor at Eagle River Elementary School near one of the entrances. The school has been closed through the end of this school year following Friday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

The Anchorage School District says Eagle River Elementary school will be closed for the remainder of the school year. The building sustained severe structural damage from Friday’s earthquake.

On Friday at 8:29 a.m., when Anchorage was hit with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, Eagle River Elementary School principal Lisa Prince says there weren’t a lot of students inside.

“We had our choir students here practicing and we had a before-school program,” Prince said.

Immediately following the earthquake, the students evacuated the building. None were injured.

Since Friday, every school in the district has been under repair and inspection and is being tagged red, yellow or green: red being the most unsafe and green being safe for staff reentry.

As of today, Eagle River Elementary School was the only school that was tagged red. While a lot of debris has been cleaned up, there’s structural damage to one of the school’s exterior walls.

Anchorage School Superintendent Deena Bishop and U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan in front of Eagle River Elementary School. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

School officials gave a guided tour through the school to show the damage to U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan and local officials.

Tom Fenoseff is the senior director for capitol planning and construction for the Anchorage School District.

“So when you’re outside at the main entrance, you look up, you’re gonna see the deflection in the wall,” Fenoseff said. “The bending and the bowing and the cracking out. That translates into the inside and it affects the multipurpose room and the gymnasium.”

That damage is the primary reason for the closure. ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop said there is a plan for relocating students to two different Eagle River locations.

“They will be reassigned to two other elementary schools in the Eagle River area, Chugiak area as well. Birchwood Elementary as well as Homestead [Elementary,]” Bishop said.

One of the classroom at Eagle River Elementary School following Friday’s quake. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

Teachers will relocate with their students to the new schools. Bishop says non-teaching staff will be reallocated as Birchwood and Homestead increase in student population. A new assistant principal may be hired to assist Prince.

“We’re not losing any people, in fact we’re probably gonna need more people to help because the school’s being split into two,” Bishop said.

Bishop says that about a third of the schools in the district are tagged green and the plan is to get those cleaned out this week, making them student-ready.

“If you have a green school, you’re gonna get in there and clean. If you have a yellow, you’re going to a green school to help clean,” Bishop said. “We are literally using every employee, whether they’re certified or para-professionals, to come in if they wanna work and assist us in the preparation and the cleanup.”

Bishop says Gruening Middle School is currently the only school that has not been fully evaluated. She says the district will be working through the weekend to get all of the yellow-tagged schools into the green category so classes can resume December 10.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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