Trying to keep up with the highest growth rate in Alaska, two new schools are part of a huge construction boom in the Mat-Su Valley -- space officials say could benefit the entire community.
With the goal of matching students to schools where they will have the most success, two Mat-Su Borough School District facilities will be getting a complete facelift.
The Mat-Su Day School and Valley Pathways are part of $238 million of new construction projects slated for this year. That number also include roads, buildings and even a ski chalet to serve the 96,000 people living in the Mat-Su Borough.
"We are at a real critical time, an interesting time, where our infrastructure is trying to catch up with our growth," said Patty Sullivan, the public affairs director for the Mat-Su Borough.
Expansion is a big deal for the 175 students at Valley Pathways. After 14 years of holding all classes in portable buildings, students and staff welcome the changes.
"We had to do a lab on the computer, like virtual, so we don't get the actual equipment," said freshman James Morrow.
Although nothing was wrong with instruction in the school's portable classrooms, Mat-Su educators say having more space will give students a better learning environment.
"Where you learn does matter, from the light to the space where kids can move about," said Dr. Deena Paramo, the district's superintendent.
But the additions go beyond the buildings. With less than 20 percent of residents in the Mat-Su Valley having any connection to schools, officials say the value will translate into more economic opportunities and jobs for students and adults.
"If I was a contractor, I would be watching the borough page on what schools are out for design or construction," Sullivan said.
For Paramo, MSBSD's ultimate product isn't just individual success but a rising standard of life for the community.
"Kids graduate here," Paramo said. "Their success rate with getting jobs with livable wages is also high."
The money to build Valley Pathways and the Mat-Su Day School came from a voter approved bond package. Both are on schedule to open this fall.