On the ballot: Replacing Anchorage’s Inlet View Elementary School

Included in this year’s bond proposal is a nearly $31 million replacement of Inlet View Elementary School. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)

During this year’s municipal election, Anchorage voters will decide on an $111 million bond for capital improvements to district schools. One of the projects included in that list is a replacement of Inlet View Elementary School. It’s estimated to cost nearly $31 million.

Built in 1957, Inlet View is one of the oldest schools in the district. Thomas Fenoseff, the Anchorage School District’s senior director of capital planning and construction, said it’s also in high demand from families because of its international baccalaureate (IB) program.

“Not only has it become a maintenance problem, but it’s also not really suited to meet the educational needs of our students and staff,” he said.

One example is the lack of a multi-purpose room. The district’s standards call for each school to have both a multipurpose room where kids can eat lunch and a gym where they can play and have PE classes. At Inlet View, all that has to happen in the gym.

School board member David Donley has said the district should consider renovating the existing school rather than replacing it. At a school board meeting in November, he said was worried Anchorage voters wouldn’t support the broader bond proposal because of the replacement project.

“It’s just a real, real hard sell that I think could put the whole bond proposition into jeopardy,” he said. “And I don’t want to do that. I want to see these school bonds pass because they have really essential projects on here, including the safety projects. And I’m very concerned that this will be an incredibly difficult sell to this community.”

But Fenoseff says that spending nearly $31 million to replace the school would be more cost effective in the end. Plus, the new school will be more energy efficient, saving even more money.

“It was very clear to us that it would cost us more money in the long run to do a renovation on that school, and we still would not meet our standards for a school of the 21st century,” he said.

Fenoseff compares it to renovating an old car rather than buying a newer model.

“I’d like to keep my 1957 Corvette,” he said. “But is that good for driving around every day? The amount of work and money that goes into it, yes, it’s a valued car, but it doesn’t meet my needs. It’s not as safe as it could be. School’s no different.”

Other projects included in the bond proposal include roof replacements and security improvements at several schools.

Election day in Anchorage is April 5.

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