Ursa Major students will be moved to 3 other JBER schools as district addresses earthquake concerns

Students who were preparing to spend this school year at Ursa Major Elementary on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will be dispersed throughout the military base’s other three elementary schools after a new report on Ursa Major raised concerns about the building’s safety during an earthquake.

The Anchorage School District said this week that Ursa Major Elementary would be shut down after it received new information from an engineering firm that the school might not be safe during a future earthquake. The information came as the district nears the end of a review of 85 school buildings that were built prior to 2000.

Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt on Friday said that this fall, the nearly 400 students enrolled in Ursa Major will be absorbed by JBER’s other three elementary schools: Ursa Minor, Aurora and Orion elementary schools.

While a timeline for repairing Ursa Major has not yet been set, district officials have said that the school will remain closed for at least a year so as not to disrupt students in the middle of a school year.

In an email sent from the school district Friday, parents were directed to use the district’s online resources to find out which school their child has been rezoned to.

The district will provide transportation for students who have been relocated to Aurora and Orion. Parents can find more information about registration and enrollment at the school district’s webpage on the relocation project, or call Ursa Major to learn more about the relocation.

“I am grateful for everyone’s patience as we work through the logistics and planning for keeping everyone safe,” Bryantt said in Friday’s email.


School district spokesperson Lisa Miller said that “is anticipated that many, but not all of the staff” assigned to Ursa Major will be moved to the other schools on JBER as well. She said a small number of Ursa Major staff will be reassigned to a different school off base.

Administrators will let affected staff members know about reassignments as soon as possible, Miller wrote.

Built in 1952, Ursa Major is one of the district’s oldest schools. It didn’t suffer significant damage during the 2018 earthquake, but Rob Holland, acting chief operating officer at the district, has said that the new analysis found the building is at increased risk of partially or fully collapsing during another major quake.