ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — At Northwood Elementary School, "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake blared from the speakers as students walked in, for the first day back at school since Nov. 30's 7.0 earthquake. The damage it created forced the Anchorage School District to suspend classes for a week to fix major damage from broken water pipes and fallen ceiling tiles.
After the first bell, students practiced yoga-style breathing with white Christmas lights twinkling in the background.
First grade teacher Bradley Verneau started a discussion about how the earthquake made him feel.
He told the class he was excited during the shaking.
Others said they felt scared or angry because flat screen televisions at home had fallen and broken.
More than 90 schools in ASD are still being evaluated for damage and it's expected to cost millions of dollars in repairs.
District spokesperson Catherine Esary said Monday in an email that the district had had structural engineers in 52 schools by the morning of Sunday, Dec. 9.
"They will continue to look at the rest of the schools and we should be done before the end of the year," Esary wrote. She said each school's priority was based on the Rapid Visual Assessment that was done for each building.
According to ASD's Capital Improvement Plan there is an "alarming growth of deferred maintenance needs," within the district.
According to the CIP, the district has 92 buildings, 85 schools and 7 support facilities with more than 47,000 students and nearly 5,000 staff members.
According to the same report, the average age of district buildings is 32 years. About 24 percent of those buildings are more than 50 years old, including six buildings that are more than 60 years old.
Some of the repairs are still happening now and will continue to for the rest of the year, including to the two schools in Eagle River that will remain closed until next school year.
Back in Mr. Verneau's class, and throughout ASD, the focus is to quickly get the students back into the business of learning.
"I am smart. I am strong and I am safe," Verneau had the students repeat.