Empire Editorial: The kids are ready, how about the school?

Photo: School under construction
Schools, again, look to be under construction at the start of the school year.

Editor's Note: This editorial was corrected to note that classrooms were indeed completed, so no classroom moves will be required later this year.


Things are tidying-up at two local elementary schools, and the kids at Auke Bay Elementary were in their shiny, new classrooms when the school bell rang, although there's still work to be done on campus.

Last year, students at Gastineau Community School found an active construction site when the year began.

There’s nothing easy about a construction project, whether you’re remodeling a kitchen or building a structure from scratch. The things to watch for are delays and cost overruns.

Some projects are more sensitive than others, and a school opening is no small matter.

The new Auke Bay Elementary campus features some great things, including the ground-source heating system that will save the district in long-term heating costs.

The Borough, which handles contracts and any fines, said these delays were unavoidable. Perhaps, but the Borough overall has to do a better job of anticipating delays and adverse construction conditions. This is the second year in a row kids are coming to a school that is not complete, and it’s no surprise to anyone that problems may arise on a construction project in Alaska.

In the long run, we suspect the students at Auke Bay are better off than those across the channel who attended the Gastineau campus last year.

The playground just reopened there yesterday as the final phase of renovation comes to a close. Compare that to last year’s opening day. Cabinets were unfinished and many rooms (including the kitchen) were unusable. In the summer of 2012, bodies from an old cemetery were discovered while contractors were working on the front of the school, and excavation work stopped for a time.

This year, a drop in enrollment at Gastineau led to last-minute class reassignments that left little time for parents and students to know which class their student would attend. But, they’ll have their classrooms, and will learn in a newly-renovated campus. The moral is either ”All’s well that ends well,” or “Good things take time.”

For the students at Auke Bay, Gastineau and all of Juneau’s reopening campuses, we wish you a good school year filled with learning and fun.

For the City and Borough of Juneau, which administers the construction end of things for the Juneau School District, we hope some lessons are learned that will help keep future project timelines on track.


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