The Anchorage School Board approved a $62 million bond package last week that will be sent to voters in April. The largest single item in the proposal is nearly $19 million to replace Inlet View Elementary School.
Voters did not approve a bond package including funding for Inlet View in 2022. That was after the board decided to put $26 million toward the total needed to rebuild the aging school, now estimated to be more than $50 million.
Board member Dave Donley was the lone “no” vote against the new bond proposal at the board’s Nov. 21 meeting.
“To dedicate this much of available funds to a single project at this time, I think is very concerning, and to also go back to the voters to ask for $19 million when the last time this was on the ballot it was rejected by the voters,” Donley said. “I really think we need to move forward and get these other projects done and not endanger the full bond package with trying again to force through full replacement at Inlet View school.”
Inlet View Elementary was built in 1957 and is one of the oldest buildings in the Anchorage School District. The school houses the state’s only International Baccalaureate program for elementary school students, and many families get boundary exemptions to enroll their students in the IB program at Inlet View, which has contributed to overcrowding. The school also does not have separate rooms for a gymnasium and cafeteria, so students eat lunch in the gym.
There’s been debate about whether to remodel or rebuild the school, and where to place the building on the school site, since 2019. School district officials say that repairs would be cheaper in the short term but cost more money over time.
Prior to the school board’s vote on the bond package, Donley had offered three amendments to alter how Inlet View would be included in the bond, all of which failed without a second to his motion. Donley’s motions sought to repair the school instead of building a new one, to change the language on the bond to include information about previous funding for the project, and to separate the item from the bond itself.
A majority of the 11 people who spoke to the board were in favor of a total reconstruction.
Board member Andy Holleman said replacing the school would be cheaper in the long run than just making repairs.
“The long-term choice for what’s most economical is what’s going to ultimately put more money directly in educating kids, as opposed to spending quite a bit of money on a building in the next year or two, and then spending quite a bit of money again five or 10 years out and then five more years out,” Holleman said.
The nearly $19 million for Inlet View in the school bond package is expected to complete funding for the school rebuild. Bonds in 2013 and 2020 include just under $5 million, and the Alaska Legislature appropriated $26 million for the project last year.
The original price tag for rebuilding the school was $34 million when the last bond package was voted down in 2022. It has since ballooned to over $50 million due to inflation and construction costs according to Jim Anderson, the district’s chief operating officer.
Voters will decide on the bond proposal during local elections on April 2.