A half dozen construction projects are underway at schools across the Lower-Kuskokwim School District. The projects, which include one new school and five remodeling and maintenance projects are long overdue according to officials and intended to improve the condition of aging buildings throughout district.
Bill Murdock is a project manager for the Lower Kuskokwim School District and right now he says his team is managing six different construction projects from Tununak to Quinhagak.
“We’ve got a Renno/addition in Kipnuk which is doubling the size of the school and renovating the existing school, the same thing in Kwig, Nightmute is a reno add doubling the size of the school and renovating the existing school, we’re doing the same thing in Quinhagak and Kwethluk is a replacement school so we’ll be abandoning the existing school and then our Tununak project is a major maintenance.”
Combined, the projects cost more than 200 million dollars and will bring the schools in Alaska’s largest rural school district into the 21st century, Murdock says. The majority of schools in the Y-K Delta are about 30-35 years old and they’re beginning to show their age.
“We do a lot of energy upgrades, replacing windows. The price of fuel is a big concern for us so we try to build with an r value of at least r-40 so that cuts down on the fuel usage and just bringing up to date the finishes. The floors after 35 years are beat bad and the doors and the ceilings and the bathrooms,” said Murdock.
Murdock says that improvements to the schools also include better communications systems like wireless internet and video teleconferencing for teaching.
“It’s a real plus for our schools. The kids are not going to be far behind the urban schools in Alaska with their ability to access information through the internet and our vtc and we’re bringing everything up to date,” said Murdock.
Murdock adds that most of the schools are now over capacity because of population growth and students simply need more space to learn.
Projects in Nightmute and Kwethluk are still in the design phase. Their being constructed with funds from the Kasayulie Case settlement in 2011 which allocated funding for rural school improvements, after a court ruled that the state had not adequately funded rural schools.
But there is still lots of work ahead, says Murdock. Only about a third of the schools in the district have been updated since renovations began in the early 2000’s.
“Every one of them is in dire need except the ones that we’ve remodeled and added onto so I think it’s going to continue for quite a while here,” said Murdock.
And with 28 schools more than 30 years old scattered across a district the size of Ohio, the job won’t be done anytime soon.