Books are strewn on the floor of the earthquake-damaged Houston Middle School.

Alaska district mulls whether to replace earthquake-damaged middle school

Feb. 21, 2019
Houston Middle School in the Mat-Su Borough District has been closed since the Nov. 30 earthquake.

Rebuilding an earthquake-damaged middle school in the Mat-Su Borough (Alaska) District would cost $35 million, officials say.

KTUU-TV reports that the school district has been going back and forth with insurance providers, seismic engineers and architects to learn the full extent of the damage to Houston Middle School from the Nov. 30 earthquake.

District officials say $35 million is a broad estimate at the cost of a new facility.

Students from the middle school have been relocated to Houston High School, which now is being called Houston Jr./Sr. High School. More than 700 students are housed at the school and 13 portable buildings. 

The dangerous reality of even being inside the earthquake-damaged school is not lost on Howard, and he’s reminded of that on the drive to work every morning. Whether it’s rebuilding or making repairs, Howard says the most important thing now is keeping kids safe.

“I drive by this building every morning on my way to work and I miss it,” Howard said. “But when we look at, again, that number one goal of making sure kids have a safe place, I guess that’s my umbrella statement. We are going to do whatever we need to do to make sure that happens.”

Houston Jr./Sr. High Principal Benjamin Howard says it's likely that all students will remain at Houston Jr./Sr. High until the district decides on a long-term solution. That may mean adding more portables or switching classrooms around.

Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Jim Sykes says the borough has two different insurance plans amounting to $25 million in earthquake insurance coverage. He says the Borough has likely suffered more damage than insurance will be able to cover.

The decision on what to do with Houston Middle School won't be made until the final damage assessment is complete, which isn't expected until at least the end of spring.

“There’s really some very serious structural questions that have to be asked, and that’s your engineers and your architect," Sykes said. "That’s why they are still looking at it.”

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