BETHEL (AP) -- Part of the village school in Akiak has been condemned as presenting a danger to its 120 students, according to the regional school district.
A pair of first-floor bathrooms in the Arlicaq School will not be used this year after a state engineer examined them last week and concluded that they were unsafe, Yupiit School District chairman Mike Williams said Saturday.
Floorboards in the bathrooms are rotting and its walls are sagging. Compounding the problem is that a utility room with two heavy boilers stands above the bathrooms, causing some to worry about a floor collapse due to the building's deterioration.
Some parents said at a town meeting earlier this month that they thought the K-12 school was structurally unsound, but Williams said the engineer's preliminary report states that, aside from the bathrooms, the building was safe to use this school year.
''After another town meeting, we went ahead to allow the kids to go to that school,'' Williams said. ''As much as we hate to do it, we just can't put their education behind ... We're up against the wall and didn't have any other choice.''
The school district on Saturday approved a $165,000 contract with a Bethel contractor to repair the bathrooms, he said. While that work is under way, students will use portable bathrooms.
Williams said repairs are not intended as a permanent solution for the school. For that, the district will ask the state Department of Education and Early Development for a new school.
''In the long run, the state would serve itself right if instead of trying to fix an old school -- the school is at least 25 years old -- it built a new school,'' he said. ''It would be cheaper in the long run.''
The physical upkeep of rural schools is a hot political issue in the Bush.
In 1997, a group of parents and rural school districts brought a lawsuit against the state over funding for school facilities.
A Superior Court judge ruled last year that Alaska is violating the state constitution and a federal civil rights law by providing inadequate school buildings for rural students.
Judge John Reese of Anchorage said legislators have passed over many repair and replacement projects for dilapidated schools in districts with predominantly Native populations, despite that those projects ranked highest on the Department of Education's priority list.
During the past session, legislators appropriated $93 million for six rural school projects.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.