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LKSD begins design of new school in Mertarvik, which will replace temporary classrooms in evacuation center

The Mertarvik Evacuation Center, where students in the new village attend school.
Newtok Village Council
The Mertarvik Evacuation Center, where students in the new village attend school.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) is preparing to build a new school in Mertarvik, where students have been learning in an evacuation center. On Jan. 27, the LKSD school board voted to pay the company, BDS Architects, $2.8 million to design the new school building in Mertarvik on Nelson Island. LKSD has worked with BDS Architects before in Mertarvik and other communities.

While LKSD is going ahead with the design, it does not yet have the money to actually build the new school. It will be up to the state legislature to allocate funding in the state budget. The Alaska Department of Education ranks Mertarvik second on its list of communities that most need a new school building. Another Y-K Delta community, Napakiak, where the current school is just 64 feet from the eroding riverbank, is number one.

Mertarvik is the new community that Newtok residents are relocating to because Newtok is eroding away. In Mertarvik, there are brand new homes, solid ground, but no school building. Students have been attending school at the Mertarvik Evacuation Center, the largest structure in the new village.

Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.
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