School Board President Ole Larson and Borough Mayor Vern Halter

School Board President Ole Larson and Borough Mayor Vern Halter

HOUSTON — The Houston Middle School rebuild construction project is currently on schedule. At an update presented by Borough Manager Mike Brown to the joint meeting of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly and Mat-Su Borough School Board on Sept. 14, Brown reported that steel erection was scheduled for next month and dry-in structure construction was tentatively scheduled for February of 2022.

“We’re moving on with a new structure and it will have a completely updated new foundation according to current codes so I think that’s a huge win. I know there were a lot of conversations about that when we were going through the retrofit conversations around whether we were going to retrofit or to rebuild,” said Brown.

Houston Middle School was damaged during the November 2018 earthquake and later condemned. While initial conversations by the School Board and Assembly indicated that plans would be to repair sections of the building and replace other wings, the additional damage discovered during consequent inspections led the school district administration to recommend a complete demolition and new construction at the former site of Houston Middle School. The new school will become Houston High School and the old high school building currently serving as Houston Jr./Sr. High with the addition of 15 portable classrooms will become the new middle school. The building was demolished last December and ground was broken on the new school site in July. While Brown said that construction from Roger Hickel Contracting was currently on schedule, supply chain delays caused him to express skepticism about the fall 2022 open date.

“I would be really reluctant to promise that, so I think what we’re looking at potentially is a mid year opening or potentially a phased opening where we might be able to get the academic wing done earlier in the year and then we’ll have to work, our project management team staff will have to work with the facilities to partner with the district to talk about the details of how you could potentially have one wing open while other wings are potentially under construction. So we’ll wait and see how that goes,” said Brown.

Brown said that there were currently no delays or significant issues, and that the academic wing would receive priority during construction ahead of the administrative wing and the gymnasium to allow students to begin receiving instruction in the new building as soon as possible.

Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agencies for the project had been communicated to the Borough earlier this summer, but project worksheets are still in progress and the FEMA funding has yet to be approved by the Assembly for the rebuild project.

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