Anchorage School District officials say students and staff originally set to start school at Ursa Major Elementary School this fall will begin elsewhere, after a report from an engineering firm said the school may not be safe during a future earthquake. Ursa Major is located on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I have decided to halt use of Ursa Major until further evaluation has been done,” ASD superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said in a letter to families and staff Monday.
The school, built in 1952, has an enrollment of 397 students and is one of four elementary schools located on JBER.
“The building would not perform at a level of collapse prevention that the district requires of its campuses,” Lisa Miller, a spokesperson for the Anchorage School District, said Monday afternoon.
The district notified parents and staff about the relocation on Monday. Miller said it was still too early to discuss specific plans. Ideally, the school’s students and staff would be relocated to the other three schools on base, Miller said.
The school district is nearing the end of a review of 85 buildings constructed prior to 2000, which began in the wake of district-wide damage from the 7.1 earthquake in Southcentral Alaska in 2018.
PND Engineers, Inc. made the district aware of the issues on Thursday, according to Miller. She said the district plans to get a second opinion.
A written version of that report will be available this week, Miller said. She acknowledged that there will be lots of questions about the decision and said the district’s main priority is safety.
“This will be a large logistical puzzle to piece together over the coming weeks,” Bryantt wrote. “Please know — there is a space for you in our ASD community and we will work through this to start the school year strong.”