Houston Middle School won't open for years due to earthquake damage, officials say

Houston Middle School was badly damaged in Friday's earthquake and may not re-open this school year. (KTUU)
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HOUSTON, Alaska (KTUU) - Houston Middle School, hit by the massive earthquake that shook Southcentral at the end of November, was left too unsafe to use, and now school officials say it will remain closed for two or three years due to the damage.

According to Mike Brown, the director of operations and maintenance at the Mat-Su Borough School District, the school won't re-open for students for several years, and discussed the options on how it will happen.

Right now they are looking at two timelines for completion, either December of 2021 or August of 2022. These dates were presented at a meeting on Thursday as the two most likely timelines for having kids reoccupy what is Houston Middle School.

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"We've worked with the Borough to do a comprehensive assessment," said Dr. Monica Goyette, MSBSD superintendent. "And a few weeks ago, we received the assessment, and want to let the community know what results of that were."

Outside the middle school, little to see - but inside, much of the damage is obvious. Some, though, is hidden, and potentially much more costly.

Thursday night was a chance for community members to hear directly from the school district about the damages and the future of the middle school.

"We want to make sure we give an opportunity to hear that and share their opinions with us," Goyette said.

Parents, teachers and others in attendance weren't afraid to voice exactly how they were feeling.

"I'm concerned there aren't any other options," said Vicki Knapp, a parent at the meeting, "looking at alleviating some of the immediate issues at the school."

Audience members posed questions, too.

"Is there a way to go back to the building company, put some of this on their shoulders?" said Wendy Bredberg, a teacher and parent. "Because obviously, they didn't do it right in the first place."

The choice for a course of action was broken down into sections.

"Really, the three options moving forward are a repair, a complete repair; a complete rebuild; or a hybrid," Goyette said.

As for a timeline for the future, there are options there, too, focusing on the need for parents, students and staff to all feel safe walking into both of the schools.

"We want that," said Mike Brown, of the MSBSD. "We want you to have that confidence back. We're not trying to fast-track a solution. That's not at all what we're intending to do."

Though not a rush, a sense of urgency remains.

"At some point," Brown said, "we have to move on, or we're never gonna get kids back in the school."