Misinformation is a powerful tool being used to oppose the need for a new Inlet View Elementary School and discredit the designers. We must respond to the recent opinion piece by Mr. Bernitz and others with the facts.
Replacement is cheaper than remodeling
In 2019, the Anchorage School District recommended replacing Inlet View. The school is a top priority on the ASD Six Year Capital Improvement Plan (2018-2024). Remodeling was studied and determined to be more expensive in the long run than a building replacement. A remodel would cost $23 million for a useful life of 20-30 years, amortizing to between $777,000–$1,150,000 per year, and would be more expensive to maintain than a new building. A remodel would waste the $3.3 million already spent designing the replacement building. Students at Inlet View Elementary would not see any improvements to their school for at least 5-6 more years. Replacement would cost $34 million, with a useful life of 50-60 years. That amortizes to between $567,000 and $680,000 per year, and the completed design is ready for permitting now.
The building design committee was qualified and their design was approved
The building design committee is made up of an architect, parents, teachers, and neighbors, all of whom have experience with the school and why it does not work. A team of skilled and respected professionals — architects, a landscape architect, engineers, educators, and ASD construction project managers, worked with the BDC to create the plans. The Urban Design Commission unanimously approved the design and complimented the BDC on their hard work and thoughtful solutions. The plans were approved by the ASD and the School Board. The Municipal Assembly approved the bond, including Inlet View for the ballot, and the South Addition Community Council passed a resolution in favor of the replacement. This project made its way through the public processes that are in place to ensure oversight. Participant effort greatly exceeded minimum requirements and was carried out in good faith.
A remodel is inadequate for present and future students
The present building has a capacity of 170 students and 235 are enrolled. It was the highest-utilized school in the district in 2017 — 142% of capacity. According to ASD, the Municipality of Anchorage, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, and the city’s Comprehensive Plan, downtown will become more densely populated, with 19% more housing and an increase in multifamily housing from 31% to 35%, attracting more families with children. Three former mayors — Tony Knowles, Rick Mystrom and Dan Sullivan — support the new school because it is essential to revitalizing downtown.
IVES serves minority and low-income children well: Inlet View is as racially, ethnically and culturally diverse as Anchorage and more economically diverse. While 15% of Anchorage families have an income below $25,000 per year, this is 29% for the Inlet View attendance zone. The school also has good academic outcomes. The past president of the local chapter of the NAACP supports Inlet View replacement.
Placement of the present building is unsafe
The existing building footprint violates modern setback requirements, obscures the campus from two major streets and provides unseen access to the front door. Current traffic patterns that mingle vehicular and pedestrian traffic are dangerous. The replacement building location provides passive campus surveillance from three major streets and cures all other safety deficiencies. The design meets or exceeds all applicable health and safety codes.
Petra Wilm is a past Inlet View PTA president, neighbor, architect and member of the Building Design Committee
Bonnie DeArmoun is an Inlet View alum, parent, neighbor and member of the Building Design Committee.
Kristin Ramstad is an Inlet View alum, parent, neighbor and member of the Building Design Committee.
Kelly Smith has been the Inlet View nurse and Safety Committee member for 9 years, and is a member of the Building Design Committee.
Patricia Ahrens was the principal at Inlet View from 2017-2022 and is a member of the Building Design Committee.
Allie Shepherd is the Inlet View librarian and a past Inlet View PTA president.
Hannah Brewster and Rachel Sutton are the current Inlet View PTA co-presidents.
Beth Kemp taught at Inlet View for 15 years, both her kids attended the school and she’s a neighbor.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.