Little Diomede school struck by collapsing building closed indefinitely

Little Diomede
The island village of Little Diomede is located 135 miles northwest of Nome. (File/KNOM)

The school on Little Diomede Island is closed indefinitely after the city building partially collapsed into it Sunday morning.

The State Emergency Operation Center received reports Sunday that the stilts beneath the city building had completely rotted, causing it to lean on the school. No injuries were reported in the incident.

The Bering Strait School District announced the closure of the village’s school at a Monday meeting. According to a Facebook post by the Diomede School, students will now be attending school by video conference.

Susan Nedza, the district’s Unalakleet-based chief school administrator, said the principal of Little Diomede and workers shared photos of the building collapse Sunday. The district’s maintenance team has examined the photos and reached out to a landscaping company to get a leveling assessment.

“We don’t know how stable it is, we know that the building moved,” she said. “We know that there’s a significant crack through the middle of that section of the building, through the classrooms.”

Nedza said the district can’t safely assess damage to the school until the city building is removed. She hopes it doesn’t get worse but calls it “a waiting game.”

“We’re hoping that it can be removed in a controlled manner rather than just falling down over time,” she said.

Nedza said teachers were living in housing at the school and will be relocated to other schools in the district due to safety concerns. She said they will still be teaching through Zoom.

“We’re working on getting Chromebooks out to families,” Nedza said. “We’ve got a list of who has internet and who can group up with who to share internet and those kinds of things.”

With Starlink now active in Little Diomede, Nedza said internet access is now better than it used to be.

“It’s a little better than what we had during COVID, because there is through Starlink, some internet access,” she said.

Nedza said the district is also working on providing food services. She said the school’s kitchen is unstable, but staff will try to get some prepackaged meals distributed to students in the near future. For some families in the district, she said the school’s ability to provide breakfast and lunch make a considerable difference.

Diomede’s tribal coordinator, Frances Ozenna, said a group of residents are closely watching the city building as it continues to slide into the school. She said the incident has shocked village residents.

Updates will be posted to the Diomede School Facebook page.

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