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Airports Heights Elementary Tops List for School Improvements

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Oct 21 2013 10:10:58 PM AKDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2013 08:47:40 AM AKDT

Corey Allen-Young/Rick Schleyer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

The Anchorage School Board took up the $57 million question at its Monday meeting of which school improvements it will put before local voters in April, selecting a series of bonds to propose.

"How do we get the biggest bang for the community's buck, in order to take care of the facilities that serve our students and serve our community?" asked board President Tam Agosti-Gisler, prior to the meeting.

On Monday evening, the Anchorage School Board decided on which projects it would present to voters, with extensive work on Airport Heights Elementary at the top of the list.

The school has a long list of issues, including asbestos removal, heating and plumbing concerns, a lack of space to teach and neighborhood traffic problems.

Officials say the school, which was built in 1954, has had only slight repairs done on it in 1972 and in 1987. The building ranked No. 1 this year on a priority list for repairs, based on the Anchorage School District's facility condition index and an educational adequacy formula which ranks schools based on their deficiencies and the ability to instruct students there.

Mike Webb, the principal at Airport Heights Elementary, says faculty just want a building they can successfully teach kids in. 

"We hear about complaints in education about really being Cadillac schools, the buildings being Taj Mahals, and we make use of every nook and cranny we have in this building and really what we are asking for is just something that will be efficient for learning," Webb said.

The board picked from three options that included a $15 million version that will extend the building's life for another 10 years, a $24 million version that will extend it 40 years and an option for $30 million that would replace the entire building.

ASD's administration recommended the $24 million option, which the school board amended to a smaller cost that members say would still provide the same renovations. They proposed using the extra $1.2 million for upgrades at the Chugiak High School.

The motion passed unanimously.

The Anchorage Assembly will have to approve the proposed bonds before they go on the April 2014 ballot.