by Principal Barbara Gerard


    The Application and Approval Process - 1995


    It has been a long journey with many hurdles and barriers to making our dream a reality.  The first hurdle was to  prove to the school district that our intentions in making a school were true and honorable and that we had the capability to make the school work. The first 6 months after the application was turned into the school district were spent sharing our vision and convincing others that we truly would provide an outstanding education for children here in the Valley.  Once the local school board had approved our application, we presented our vision at the Alaska School Board where we received the nod of approval.  It would seem like we would be off, sailing forward into the wind, but in reality, a home for our little school was still an uncertainty.  Fortunately, we scheduled our school to develop in phases.


    Phase I - 1996

             We started out with one Kindergarten class of 20 students, which meant we could make do with a small leased space. We wanted to try out all of our lofty ideas and see if they worked. They did! 


    Phase II –Temporary Location at the Fire Training Center - 1997

    Phase II, expanding to include grades K – 3 with 108 students would not be so simple.  We knocked on many a door, and checked out many possible locations with no luck. City of Palmer Fire Chief Dan Contini was our savior. He offered use of the Fire Training Center property. Then Bob Doyle, Director of Business, Operations and Maintenance, stepped up and offered four portables to use as classrooms. He also arranged to have them moved to the Fire Training Center.  

    The portables arrived a few weeks prior to school beginning. The portables provided for the classrooms, but we still were short space for our office and our computer lab and needed water and electricity hooked up.  I was able to arrange to lease a building from Alaska Modular that would hold the office and computer lab

                 I spoke with so many people, businesses, and community members while asking for help, and was so very pleased with their response. Ten foot deep trenches were dug to lay our water lines by Dirt Works.  Slayden Plumbing laid the water lines. By hand we put 2 feet of dirt on top of the water lines and then Rothermel and Sons laid the electric wires. Approximately 18 parents gathered on a Saturday to put up skirting on the portables, build the firewalls, connect roofs between the portables, and connect decks, boardwalks, and ramps.  We remodeled the modular into an office area and the computer lab.  We opened on time through the determination and “never give up” mentality of our staff and parents.


    Phase III – Site Selection Process and New Site 801 E. Arctic Ave. - 2002

           The borough stepped up to the plate and appointed a site selection committee for Academy. We met over a couple of months coming to the final resolution that without some form of funding for a facility, we had very few options.  Fortunately the borough manager offered Academy the old borough maintenance site of 3.77 acres as our permanent site. 

    We gratefully accepted the land, including an old garage and the old Parks and Recreation building.  The staff, parents and I began the incredibly difficult remodel of the garage into our multi-purpose room, and the shed area into an office. 

    The school district moved the eight portables into position and put in the water, commercial septic, and electric to each portable.  We then converted the storage closet in each portable into a small restroom and put in a playground area.  So many businesses stepped up to help us with donated materials and supplies, including Job Corps who had their Electrical Trades class use our site for hands-on lessons for the installation of the electrical upgrades in the multipurpose area and the office. 


    The School District and Borough Assembly Agree to Put an Academy Bond up for Vote- 2003?


    Though we worked to get out the vote, we found that too many valley residents still had misconceptions that charter schools were private, or religious schools. As a result, the voters defeated our hope for a $7.8 million dollar school bond.


    Phase IV – Adding 6th Grade – 2002?

          With the help of Gary Wolf of Wolf Architecture, a plan for remodel of the old Parks and Recreation building into classrooms was formulated.  The fire marshal and City of Palmer approved the plans and over the summer months we worked to remodel the two-story building into safe, usable space for classrooms.  This included running water and septic lines to the building and then plumbing four bathrooms.  It included cutting new fire exits and building new stairways. Job Corps again used our site for hands-on instruction and completed new electrical work.  Again, so many businesses donated supplies, materials, and expertise.  The only item we had to pay for was the $18,000 sprinkler system!


    Phase V – Remodeling the Lawn Mower Shed into Classrooms – 2004?

          The plans for the shed were taken to the fire marshal and City of Palmer.  We remodeled the shed into two small classrooms to hold our resource room and our advanced second grade classroom.  Construction had become relatively second nature by now.  This project was easy, and only required a few modifications: windows, doors, insulation, vapor barrier, sheetrock, mud/tape, paint, carpet, and we were ready to use the space!


    Phase VI – The 8th Grade and Science Lab – 2004

          Knowing that our 7th graders were going to need a space for their 8th grade year, the hunt for space began.  Fortunately we found an old, large building that had sat in a field for seven years.  The owner agreed to sell it to us for $35,000, including moving it onto Academy’s land.  The building was pulled into place and then the work began.  We gutted the old building with exception of the two bathrooms. The staff and parents ripped off the old roof in the hot summer sun. The fire marshal and the City of Palmer building inspector approved the remodel plans. 

    The work began.  A new roof was put into place, including a firewall ridge, dividing the two sides of the building.  Inside we built a firewall, dividing the building into two classrooms. The water and septic lines were run to the new building.  One student’s grandfather did all of the plumbing hook ups, including sinks for the science lab.  We put in a vapor barrier, sheetrocked, painted, laid carpet, and heaters were installed. We insulated under the building, skirted it, built steps, and we were ready for school!


    Our Beautiful Gymnasium and Office – 2005-06

    The 2005 Legislature graciously made a direct appropriation of $2.5 million to design and build a gymnasium facility for Academy Charter School and the community.  With the help of the borough, the facility was put out for a bid.  Fortunately for us, F-E Construction won the award.  They designed and built a fabulous, functional building that included a new office area and two classrooms. Then Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman, along with a contingent of valley legislators, school board and advisory board members showed up with hard hats to dig the ceremonial first shovel-ful of dirt. The building was completed just in time for the 2006-07 school year. Come and watch a Husky sporting event in our full-size gymnasium!


    Roof blows off - Nov. 16, 2006

              In November 2006 the winds began to blow, and gusted up to 100 miles per hour for three days. On the second day of that three day blow, I arrived at 6:45 a.m. to see large chunks of insulation, sheets of plywood, roofing metal, and flying debris blowing across our campus. With the darkness, the only thing I knew for certain is that we had lost at least one roof, maybe two. I directed the staff to the gym and sent the students home before they were hit by flying debris.

    As soon as I knew our students were sent back home, I contacted the superintendent's office leaving a message that we had lost at least one roof, maybe more and that we needed help. A few of the staff accompanied me to assess our damage. We arrived at the back of the two-story building to find the entire back side of the roof was missing. The sprinkler system was sending gallons and gallons of water into the air and along side the building. (If the situation had been different, I would have admired the ice sculpture that had been created.)

    As I returned to the office area, Lucille, our secretary, informed me that the superintendent's office had called back and said, "It will cost $53.00 an hour for them to come over to assess the damage." I knew that we were on our own. I immediately called Bill's Metal Roofing and he agreed to come over later in the day to measure and order the metal roofing materials. By now it was light and  most of the male staff members and a couple of the dads that came to help volunteered to join me as I went out to see what could be done. A parent arrived with his shop vacuum to begin sucking up the water from the downstairs of the building. Some of our male staff began picking up the debris that had gathered along the fence. Other things were battened down so they would not blow away or damage anything else.

    By late afternoon Bill of Bill's Roofing arrived and he and I went out and climbed up the ladders to measure the area we would need to replace. Bill promised he would special order the roofing metal and it would be here in two days. With this information I began to organize a huge work party to be held on Saturday. I called some of our dads with construction know-how and asked for help. They gave me recommendations and the order for lumber and materials was made. The sprinkler system people were called and they arranged to come out immediately to see what they could do. I asked a couple of moms to organize food for the crew. I then prayed for the wind to stop so that we could hold the work party without wind!

    Saturday arrived and the wind was absolutely still. It was zero degrees...but that did not stop this group! Over a hundred volunteers showed up to replace that roof, fix things inside that had been damaged, pick up debris and haul to the dump, and so on. The ladies brought homemade soups, breads, and desserts! They kept the coffee on. By early afternoon, we, along with a hundred volunteers, (our parents, staff, and even community members) had accomplished a miracle! It was all finished and we were ready for school on Monday! The Palmer Building Inspector inspected and verified that this roof would never blow off again!



Last Modified on November 11, 2009