Opinions

Anchorage School District is right to seek replacement for Inlet View Elementary

We have lived in South Addition in downtown Anchorage, a block from Inlet View Elementary School, for 37 years. Our daughters attended Inlet View and now our grandsons do. We strongly support a school replacement — it’s the best option for neighborhood families and for taxpayers. We have been dismayed to learn that some people have mistaken ideas about the school replacement. We would like to set the record straight.

The current building is over capacity. The building capacity is 170, but 217 students are enrolled. This is not due to zone exemptions, which occur both into and out of the neighborhood. Students eligible to attend Inlet View get zone exemptions or participate in lotteries to attend other schools, like Chugach Open Optional School and Aquarian. Some attend private schools. There are currently 306 children living in the neighborhood eligible to attend the school. The solution is not eliminating zone exemptions only into Inlet View, but not for other schools. Either all parents should have the flexibility to apply for zone exemptions, or none should. The new school will have a capacity of 289 students, which is based on ASD analysis of projected neighborhood population increase.

The site is stable and safe to build on. There have been three geotechnical studies for the project (in 2015, 2016 and 2021). All three concluded that the site is safe for the replacement school. The design incorporates all health, fire, safety, traffic, seismic and hydrology requirements. It will lessen traffic congestion, because lines for pickup and drop-off will occur on school grounds, not in the street. Increased on site parking will decrease congestion caused by on street parking. Water drainage problems, which affect nearby houses, will be ameliorated by the underground drainage system required by code for new buildings.

The school doesn’t work, and that harms students. Inlet View was built in 1957. Its projected life span was 50-60 years. It passed its maximum replacement date in 2017. And it shows: too-small classrooms; no modern security infrastructure; failure to meet ASD requirements for health, fire and safety; no multipurpose and specialty rooms; insufficient parking, and unsafe queuing for drop-off and pickup. A building that has outlived its life span is expensive to maintain. There have been 500 work order requests since 2018, among them, classrooms that are too hot or too cold, rusty water coming out of some pipes. The worst is the regularly clogged sewer pipes, which spew sewer water in the children’s bathrooms and onto the playground.

Remodeling Inlet View would ultimately cost more than replacement. Remodeling the school would cost an estimated $23 million for a projected useful life of 20-30 years, at which time a replacement will need to be funded. That pencils out to between $1,150,000 and $777,000 per year for a remodel. Replacement is projected to cost $34 million for a building with a life expectancy of 50-60 years. That pencils out to between $680,000 and $567,000 per year. If a remodel is done on the footprint of the present building, children will have to be bused to other schools for the duration of the construction project, a terrible disruption to families, especially those who need before and after school child care — and an added expense to the taxpayers, beyond the cost of the bond.

Please visit the Anchorage School District-maintained website to see the design, make comments and ask questions about our beautiful new school, which will give our children the educational environment they need and be an asset to our neighborhood.

Bob Bundy and his wife Bonnie Lembo are retired attorneys who have lived in Alaska for 50 years and have always fought for the welfare of children.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly listed the enrollment at Inlet View Elementary. There are 217 students currently enrolled.

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