"As the community grows, so must our schools"
Representatives of 27 different organizations, from PTAs to church groups, formed Operation Chugiah High School (OCHS) for the purpose of lobbying the state Legislature. They were successful and in the fall of 1964, Chugiah High School, designed to hold 300 students, was opened. That same year the state also built Birchwood Elementary School, located adjacent to the high school, and in 1973 Homestead Elementary was built in Eagle River.
Overcrowding, plus water and sewer problems, plagued the area’s first school. In 1979, the old Chugiak Elementary School was swapped for land at the old carnival grounds at Mile 21 (across from the Chugiak Senior Center). The old school was given to the Chugiak Benefit Association, which still occupies the older of the two buildings today, while leasing the newer building to Chugiak Children’s Services.
In 1983, when the population boo in Chugiak was at its height, Ravenwood Elementary was built. One year later, the area’s first middle school opened on Eagle River Loop Road. Gruening Middle School was originally slated to open in 1983, but due to a defective roof design, occupancy was delayed one year.
During that time, Chugiak High School was bursting at the seams, as it was housing all junior and senior high school students for the area. The one-year delay caused administrators at Chugiak High to cut school days into two shifts, with half of the population attending classes during the morning and the other half attending during the afternoon.
Fire Lake Elementary was the next school constructed, opening in 1985. After Fire Lake was built, population growth slowed when an economic recession hit. Nine years later Alpenglow Elementary opened its doors, and in 1998 Mirror Lake Middle School was built in Peters Creek. Eagle River High School finally opened in 2005.
* Information from this series of articles about our local schools was gleaned from various issues of the Knik Arm Courier and the Chugiak-Eagle River Star and edited by the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society’s Memory Retrievers group.
This column is provided by the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society. Reach them at [email protected] or leave a message at 688-4706.