Anchorage school library, gym closed due to damage from 7.1 earthquake

The magnitude-7.1 earthquake that rattled Southcentral Alaska in late January caused structural damage to an Anchorage middle school and damaged the library of Anchorage's oldest high school, school district officials said Friday.

The gym roof at Romig Middle School sustained structural damage after the quake, wrote Anchorage School District spokesperson Heather Marron. The roof diaphragm was deemed unsafe by engineers after a structural assessment, and the gym has been closed off.

Also closed due to the quake is the library shared by Romig and West High School, which sustained ceiling damage, according to Marron. Engineers found that ceiling tiles may fall during a future earthquake, as "the building's flexible lateral system creates problems for the rigid ceiling system during a seismic event," Marron wrote.

"The day of the earthquake (Jan. 24) we assembled at noon and started assessing all 93 district facilities," said Mike Nero, ASD director of capital planning and construction.

Engineers found different types of damage across the district -- fallen ceiling tiles, waterline breakage, and a crack in the wall at Dimond High School that was evaluated and found to be structurally sound. The only structural damage in the district occurred at Romig, Nero said.

Other areas of Romig are still being evaluated, Nero said.

West is the city's oldest high school, and opened in 1953. Romig was built 10 years later, Nero said.


Many of the school district's older facilities are not up to current seismic code, Nero said. A bond proposal heading to the Anchorage Assembly, if passed by the Assembly and city voters, would fund upgrades to West and a districtwide seismic safety investigation.

Romig has an enrollment of 730 students; West has 1,830 students enrolled as of Jan. 29, Marron said.

The library and gym will both remain closed until the spaces can be analyzed and made safe, Marron wrote. The costs and timeline will be determined in coming weeks.

"Sporting events, PE classes and community rentals will take place in alternate venues or will be rescheduled until further notice," Marron wrote.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.