Eagle River schools closed due to earthquake damage will not reopen next school year

Gruening Middle School and Eagle River Elementary School will not reopen for the 2019-20 school year because of damage from the Nov. 30 earthquake, the Anchorage School District announced Tuesday night.

Both schools were heavily damaged in the quake. District officials closed the schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, but left the door open to reopening in the fall.

But new reports from structural engineers eliminated that possibility, the district said in a statement Tuesday.

Students from Gruening Middle School will continue to attend classes within Chugiak High School, according to the ASD.

“Feedback from staff and parents indicates that this arrangement appears to be working well and the District is fortunate that CHS can house the GMS program with limited and manageable impact,” said the statement from Superintendent Deena Bishop.

Eagle River Elementary -- which housed an open optional program as well as a neighborhood program -- “presents a more complex problem," the district said.

“The District is working to assess the current program as it exists in Homestead Elementary, Birchwood ABC, and Ravenwood Elementary schools. Following the earthquake, the District chose to keep ERES students with their teachers when apportioning student populations to the gaining schools,” the district said. “As it was mid-year, the continuation of teacher/student relationships allowed teachers to provide their students with emotional supports needed because of the traumatic event.”


Now, ASD will consider with community input “the benefits of keeping families together in one school or dividing students by grade levels among elementary schools as is the present case.”

Tuesday’s announcement said no long-term plans have been made about the future of the damaged buildings.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.