Millions for renovation

Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2001


For a while, it was stormier inside the Capitol than across Juneau's night sky when the Alaska Legislature adjourned minutes before midnight on Tuesday. But storms pass and tempers ease. Not to be overlooked is a legislative accomplishment that provides a silver lining in the form of a $9 million contribution toward renovation of Juneau-Douglas High School.

The money will help with one section of a two-part project aimed at easing the overcrowding JDHS students have been facing for years. The still-unfunded component is a new high school in Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley. But a $9 million boost is better than less assistance or none at all.

When voters approved the twin project a few years ago, local officials expected state money for both projects to come at about the same time and worded the local ballot measure to link renovation with new construction.

If the money for JDHS renovation can't be spent separate from the money for a new high school, that means going back to voters for amended approval. That should not be a problem. The work at JDHS is needed, new school or not.

The devil in these details is the fact that upon completion, the renovation was intended to reduce the school's student capacity. That can't be done without a new high school being built.

Still, there is optimism that these problems can be worked out. For the moment, we prefer to focus on what we have, not on what we don't have. We have the promise of $9 million toward renovation at JDHS.

During the final weeks of the session, the appropriation came and went and shrank and grew. Its final presence is due to the hard work of our local legislative delegation, Reps. Bill Hudson and Beth Kerttula and Sen. Kim Elton, plus other members of the Legislature and local and state officials who went the extra distance to make sure it was included. They have our thanks.

We also should thank them, plus University of Alaska officials, for the $2.5 million to build part of a new classroom wing at the UAS Auke Lake campus. That will help get our university students out of temporary structures and into places more conducive to learning.

That's good news for our town. And especially good news for our students.

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