PALMER—With school starting in just a month, students at Susitna Valley Jr./Sr. High School now have a place to attend school. Today a lease was signed to rent the Upper Susitna Senior Center, while a new school is being built. Su Valley High burned down on June 5. The school site is located 15 miles south of Talkeetna. The cause of the fire was not determined by the State Fire Marshal's office. Parents and teachers were worried that students would be bused to far-flung parts of the Borough. Instead, school will be across the George Parks Highway from the Su Valley High site at a temporary campus of portables on the grounds of the senior center. The interim school will be ready for the 185 students and 25 staff before Aug. 20, the first day of school.
The Assembly for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough approved the lease last night (July 17.) Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assemblyman Tom Kluberton represents the area.
"It looks like the campus is ready to open its doors," Kluberton said. "It's great to see local government act so quickly to help our community recover from a disaster of this magnitude."
The Borough will pay the nonprofit, Upper Susitna Seniors, Inc., $5,067 per month in rent. The lease is based on compensating the seniors for costs such as the rental of a replacement office and loss of revenues from reduced access to the center.
The Borough is required to meet certain standards for public schools; among them: installing a sprinkler system, upgrading the kitchen, and expanding the septic system. Permanent upgrades to the senior center amount to about $400,000. An addition will be built onto the center, which will house a generator, water tank, and snow plow equipment.
Insurance coverage may pay for some of the costs of the interim school. The insurance on the destroyed school provides for "extra expenses" such as an interim relocation n plan for school. The Borough is applying for the funds, up to $1 million.
The School District is managing the interior needs such as desks and books.
The Borough's Economic Development Director Dave Hanson negotiated with the Upper Susitna Seniors, Inc.
"The USSI Board and members are to be commended for offering their facility despite the inconvenience they will experience during the lease period," Hanson said. "The approach taken in formulating this lease agreement is a model of willing community partners coming together to constructively meet an urgent community need."
Eighteen classroom portables will be moved on site. Portables for restrooms and a freezer will also be located there.
The School District will have exclusive use of the center during school hours and priority use for extra curricular activities. Seniors will be able to use the building for their events as long as no conflicts with school schedules occur.
The term of the lease is for two years with the option of extending for a year if necessary.
For more information on the lease call Economic Development Director Dave Hanson at 745-9508. Assemblyman Tom Kluberton is at 841-7107.