Taking care of Anchorage schools

As parents from neighborhoods across Anchorage, we are writing to thank the Anchorage School Board for advancing a bond package that takes care of our schools as we retire debt from previous bonds. This is a fiscally conservative investment in our schools, and we must take care of our school facilities to educate our children and ensure Anchorage is economically competitive. Now the school bond goes to the Anchorage Assembly, and we urge members to support it so it can be approved by voters in the April municipal election.

Public schools are a cornerstone of our economy. When parents consider whether to stay in Alaska or move to Alaska, the first thing they consider is quality of our schools. Every local business depends on our school system to educate and train a skilled workforce: The better our schools, the more competitive and profitable our businesses will be. We know that school buildings must be maintained so kids can learn — broken heating systems, leaking roofs and closed bathrooms create more and unnecessary challenges for teachers and students alike.

This bond package has improvements for 28 schools in neighborhoods across Anchorage, from Chugiak to South Anchorage and from East Anchorage to downtown. Birchwood Elementary desperately needs a new boiler, and this bond funds it. Time-sensitive roof replacements at Chugiak, Chinook, Campbell, Ursa Minor and College Gate elementary schools are on this bond. We know that failing to maintain roofs only leads to more extensive and costly repairs later, so these roof replacements adhere to the old adage “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Safety improvements are a central part of this bond package. At East High School and numerous others, this bond package funds entry vestibule and video improvements that significantly reduce the risk of school shootings. It is tragic that we live in a world where such things are necessary, but we urge you to vote yes on the bond and keep kids safe at school.

This bond also addresses more extensive improvements that are needed at our oldest school, Inlet View. Built in 1957, Inlet View has a leaking roof, broken heating systems that force children to wear down parkas at their desk, and a plumbing system failing so dramatically that bathrooms have been closed and raw sewage recently spilled out onto the playground. The School District professional staff carefully analyzed Inlet View, and determined that building replacement is more economical than a slow, complicated renovation.

A school is so much more than a building. The parents, teachers, and students who work together every day are the heart and soul of our school system. These school bond improvements simply ensure our kids have a place where they can learn, and reach their full potential as smart, caring, and engaged citizens in our community. Considering how much our parents and teachers invest in our education system, the least we can do is maintain buildings that are warm in winter, with roofs that keep rain and snow out.

Many of these projects only come to the bond after years of work by parents, teachers and school district staff. These projects reflect what our communities need in every part of Anchorage. We thank the school board and district staff for their hard work, urge the Assembly to pass this bond package, and look forward to voting “yes” for school bonds in the April election.

Petra Wilm, Lia Keller and Heather Calcaterra are Anchorage School District parents from South Addition, East Anchorage and Eagle River, respectively.

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