Gruening Middle School teachers pack up their classrooms for quake-induced move to Chugiak High

Binders were left behind by students as they evacuated during the earthquake. Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

Teachers at Gruening Middle School in Eagle River began the process today of relocating to their new classrooms at Chugiak High School.

Concrete near the front of Gruening sustained major damage from Friday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake and there was a possible gas leak near the cafeteria.

Gruening math teacher Kadra Peterson had a three-hour window to pack up the essentials from her classroom, like supplies, books and lesson plans.

But Peterson said she would have to leave a lot behind.

One of the posters in Kadra Petersons class room made by her students Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

“Everything that makes my class what it is,” Peterson said. “The artwork that my students have done, the posters — each of those lines is an equation that my students made to make the guitar.”

Peterson has been teaching in this room for nine years. She’s hopeful the move to Chugiak is temporary and she’ll be back to her old room next fall.

Peterson says her room took less damage than many others.

Renee Jilka has been teaching at Gruening for 17 years. She found a small part of a microscope that broke during the earthquake — she says cleaners must’ve taken away the rest of it. She’s not even able to get her glass beakers out of their cabinets because they’re leaning against the door, and would fall if the door was opened.

Gruening Principal Bobby Jefts says that 17 classrooms have been made available at Chugiak High School for relocating the school’s teachers and students. He says some teachers will be sharing rooms.

“We didn’t know if we were gonna be able to fit into Chugiak High School,” Jefts said. “So we worked yesterday morning, sat down with a map and sat down with our master schedule, and they have the space to take us. It worked out incredibly well.”

Clutter from immediately after Friday’s earthquake in Gruening Middle School teacher Brad Kirr’s classroom. (Photo courtesy of Brad Kirr)

Jefts says there’s even a going to be space set aside for the administrative staff.

“I gotta tell you, I’m good with a folding table. We’ll make it work,” Jefts said. “Just give me a laptop and a folding table, and we’ll make it work.”

While most Anchorage School District students will start class on Monday, December 10th, Gruening classes will resume the next day. Math teacher Kadra Peterson says Chugiak has been very welcoming.

“Overall, we’re all grateful for Chugiak,” Peterson said. “They cheered when they announced that we were coming, and they’re happy to have us.”

When classes start back up, science teacher Renee Jilka says the students and teachers are going to have to adapt to their new surroundings. Her new room isn’t a science classroom. but she’s ready to make due.

“Tuesday is just gonna kinda be debriefing with the kids. Getting them comfortable,” Jilka said. “It’s gonna be quite a transition for all of us to be in a big high school.”

Eighth grade science teacher Steve Bay says he was the teaching a unit on earthquakes when the earthquake happened. The first thing he’ll be talking about on Tuesday is the earthquake that forced him and his students into a new classroom.