OPINION: We need to invest in our schools

By Jake Metcalfe, Eleanor Andrews, Bob Bundy, Bonnie Lembo, Mike Teo, Hannah Brewster, Linda Duck, Adam Kushner, Reinou Green, Anna Bosin and Zack Fields

Updated: 20 minutes ago Published: 20 minutes ago

On Tuesday, the Anchorage School Board will consider moving forward with capital appropriations for Bayshore, Creekside, Ursa Major, Inlet View, Fire Lake, Spring Hill, Klatt and Ravenwood elementary schools, as well as Steller Secondary and West High schools. As we confront outmigration and a state economy in decline, it is imperative to invest in our schools and project a vision of hope for Anchorage and Alaska.

Alaska is a young state, and Anchorage is a young city. Most of our schools have not reached a point of needing to be replaced or go through a major renovation, but as we approach the 50th anniversary of the pipeline era boom, we are beginning to see the need for major facility renovations or building replacements. Other projects in this bond package cost relatively little today, but are consistent with the adage “a stitch in time saves nine.” Repairing roofs today avoids the need for building replacements later.

Most projects in the capital bond proposal are for roof repairs at Bayshore, Creekside, Fire Lake, Spring Hill, Klatt and Ravenwood elementary schools. For these schools were built in the 1980s, timely repair now will avoid the need for more expensive renovations or building replacement later.

The school district can and should appropriate to match federal funds and rebuild Ursa Major Elementary on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. This school was destroyed in the 2018 earthquake and should be rebuilt. The 4:1 federal match is a good deal for local property taxpayers and provides necessary facilities to support our growing population of military service members.

Inlet View Elementary is one of Anchorage’s oldest schools, and its building is so obsolete it needs to be replaced. We support the School Board and its apparent intention to move forward with building replacement at Inlet View. This is an opportunity not merely to support one very high-performing, extremely diverse school: It is a chance to show parents across Anchorage that we value and will invest in our neighborhood schools. Some opponents of Inlet View have claimed that the school building should not be replaced, and instead should be remodeled. The School District has studied remodeling, which is more expensive to taxpayers, and leaves the school out of compliance with basic safety standards.  Building replacement is more economical, and will ensure students are safe so this neighborhood school continues to thrive.

A growing economy demands good schools with in functioning buildings. In contrast, allowing schools to crumble and ultimately close for no other reason than age of the building would be a death sentence for our city’s economy, and would send a message to parents that our political leaders have no vision and see zero opportunity for a prosperous future.

Delaying major projects will only add cost and discourage parents from staying in or moving to Anchorage. Economic growth and a thriving city are built on good schools. In a northern climate, that means having structures in which the heat and plumbing work. When parents like us invest countless hours in our local schools, it’s the least the School Board can do to keep the buildings operational and replace outdated buildings when necessary.


Jake Metcalfe is the parent of an elementary student and a former Anchorage School Board member. Eleanor Andrews served as Commissioner of Administration for the State of Alaska, Director of Human Resources for the Municipality of Anchorage, and helped lead the effort to rebuild Fairview Elementary. Bob Bundy and Bonnie Lembo’s children graduated from Anchorage public schools and have a grandchild in elementary school. Mike Teo is a parent with a son in elementary school. Hannah Brewster has a daughter in elementary school and a younger daughter who will attend Anchorage schools next year. Linda Duck is a retiree who lives near Inlet View. Adam Kushner and Reinou Green have one child in elementary school and another entering kindergarten in August. Anna Bosin’s daughter will enter first grade in August. Rep. Zack Fields represents neighborhoods that include Inlet View Elementary, North Star Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Chugach Optional, Denali Montessori, Steller Secondary, Romig Middle and West High schools in the Alaska House of Representatives, and his older daughter enters kindergarten in August.

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