A school for our kids
From an article by Les Fetrow printed in the Knik Arm Courier in 1962
Just a little more than two years after Chugiak was founded in 1947, the residents realized that school would very soon become a major problem.
The Chugiak Community Club began a vigorous campaign to obtain school facilities for the children. They organized a school committee and invited all those who lived in Chugiak to participate in the school effort. The Territorial Department of Education seemed very reluctant to consider school facilities at the start. They felt that as long as parents were willing to transport children to Anchorage, no school was needed.
After a great deal of correspondence with the Community Club, the department offered to transport the children, but the residents felt that this was an unsatisfactory solution. Many plans were proposed to obtain a school building of some sort. Among these were the purchase of one or more Quonset huts, the use of the old school building at Eklutna, and even the purchase of a large chicken house that was offered for sale.
Finally, the Territory agreed to build a school based on the data supplied by the Chugiak Community Club. It would be necessary for the community to provide the property to locate the school.
The school committee selected the present site of the Chugiak School as the most centrally located. The Chugiak Community Club applied for and obtained a special use permit from the Land Office since the land was public domain. The use permit was paid for by the Community Club until the land was turned over to the Territory.
The first school building was part of the present frame structure and contained two classrooms and the teachers’ apartment. It was built to accommodate 32 students, but opened the first year with more than 40. This has continued to be the pattern.
The Community Club appointed Paul Swanson as School Agent. When school started, the PTA formed with Henning Johnson as its first president and Marie McDowell as secretary.
Note: The original school at Mile 19 in Chugiak was eventually enlarged and is now the Elsie Oberg Center. A second building was added some years later which is now the Paul Swanson Building and occupied by Chugiak Children’s Services.
This column is provided by the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society. Reach them at 688-4706 or visit www.cerhs.org