Juneau School District maintenance and custodial crew work on transitioning Thunder Mountain High School to Thunder Mountain Middle School on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau School District maintenance and custodial crew work on transitioning Thunder Mountain High School to Thunder Mountain Middle School on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau schools empty out as classrooms and memories transition under consolidation plan

Transitions “ahead of schedule” for school district; use for vacant buildings by CBJ still in question

While moving boxes shuffled behind her, former Thunder Mountain High School teacher Janna Lelchuk welcomed her past students by the school’s main entrance with a cart full of yearbooks.

Following the Juneau Board of Education’s reorganization and consolidation decision, Lelchuk and Mimi Mesdag, Juneau Community Schools scheduler for the Mendenhall Valley, preserved yearbooks from the 2008-2009 school year to the 2022-2023 school year. Past students could pick up the books, originally sold for between $50 and $70, for free on Monday.

“I saw students from different classes I taught — Russian, Digital Arts and Yearbook,” Lelchuk said. “We hugged, we laughed, even cried. It was bittersweet — all those beautiful memories. I am glad our alumni will have the books.”

Ginalyn Del Rosario, a 2017 Thunder Mountain High School graduate, hugs former teacher Janna Lelchuk on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Ginalyn Del Rosario, a 2017 Thunder Mountain High School graduate, hugs former teacher Janna Lelchuk on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

After flipping through pages to find her portrait, Ginalyn Del Rosario embraced Lelchuk and thanked her for the memories.

“I came for my 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 yearbooks, and to see the school for one last time,” Del Rosario said. “I took Russian with Ms. Lelchuk and graduated in 2017.”

Meanwhile, Juneau School District maintenance and custodial staff continued staging classroom materials and furniture from Floyd Dryden Middle School and Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School to the lobby and auxiliary gym of the soon-to-be Thunder Mountain Middle School. Earlier this month, TMHS classroom materials transitioned to Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé.

The school board’s reorganization and consolidation plan officially takes effect with the new fiscal year on July 1.

“The maintenance and custodial staff is running ahead of schedule, and moves have been very efficient so far,” Kristin Bartlett, the district’s chief of staff, wrote in an email Monday. “So far things have been going smoothly through the complex relocation process.”

Furniture at Thunder Mountain High School marked as surplus on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Furniture at Thunder Mountain High School marked as surplus on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

TMHS will be consolidated at JDHS, and Juneau’s two middle schools will close and consolidate into the grades 7-8 at TMMS. The grade structure of the neighborhood elementary schools will shift from K-5 to K-6. Optional and alternative schools will move to the DHMS campus.

School moves will continue through the last week of July in a sequence that frees space at one school to accommodate materials from another.

The items currently spread across TMHS will be sorted through by middle school teachers into their new classrooms when it’s closer to the start of the school year, according to Day Custodian Earl St Clair. Whatever is leftover could possibly be part of a “surplus sale.”

Discussions continue regarding how to preserve and honor TMHS students’ achievements, such as their athletics trophy case and the “Dem Bones” science display.

“Dem Bones” was a collaboration between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, TMHS science teacher Kristen Wells and TMHS marine biology students. Under the supervision and mentorship of the instructor and an articulator, students prepared and articulated the skeleton of a marine mammal.

A killer whale, beluga whale and walrus hang above the Thunder Mountain High School library on Monday as part of the “Dem Bones” project. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

A killer whale, beluga whale and walrus hang above the Thunder Mountain High School library on Monday as part of the “Dem Bones” project. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Wells said the skeletons will remain hanging above the library for the 2024-2025 school year and could possibly return to UAF afterward.

JSD has completed transitions from the FDMS and Marie Drake buildings, with the City and Borough of Juneau expected to take over the facilities on July 1. Additionally, Juneau Community Charter School has been moved from JDHS to DHMS, and Montessori Borealis and Yaakoosgé Daakahídi High School are completely moved out of Marie Drake to DHMS.

The JSD district office is almost empty. Many offices will be cleared by July 1, with some staff remaining through various summer programs.

The district office will be moved to the future TMMS, with some staff in the upstairs office suite. The public entrance to the office will be through the lower front “purple wing,” close to the parking lot, to create a separate entrance from the school.

A June 14 JSD “Transitions” newsletter states “remodeling activity at TMMS will be focused on safety, security, and accessibility purposes.”

Doors will be installed to secure student areas from public access space and infrastructure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be added to the entrance.

A sign at Floyd Dryden Middle School on Monday commemorates the school being in operation from 1973 to 2024. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

A sign at Floyd Dryden Middle School on Monday commemorates the school being in operation from 1973 to 2024. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

On July 15, the CBJ Public Works and Facilities Committee will meet to discuss a refined list of options for possible uses of the vacant buildings returned to the city, according to City Manager Katie Koester.

She said after the July 15 meeting, the list will likely be sent to the Committee of the Whole for its Aug. 5 meeting, or the full Assembly for a further review of proposals and space available.

“I think the real idea here is to get an idea of kind of what’s probable and what makes sense and what, you know, can pay for itself,” she said. “Or if the Assembly wants to subsidize something, because the solicitations that we got from interested organizations — we didn’t want them to have to come up with a whole big, big plan. It was really like, ‘Hey, are you interested?’ So there will be a process of refining that interest to see like, ‘OK, I understood at this price point, I was interested under these terms.’ And then public process — what is the public interested in? Is the public interested in providing subsidized space for childcare, for example?”

She said the public process will begin after determining what organizations are willing to do and what the Assembly is willing to support.

“I think the goal initially is to be able to pay for operations and maintenance of that space,” Koester said. “If you recall, my budget did include a mill rate increase from last year’s budget to cover a little over a million dollars in the regular maintenance of those facilities. So I think the goal is to cover those costs. And if the tenants can’t cover those costs, then the Assembly needs to and the public needs to be on board with a good public service for subsidizing those services.”

A “Support Juneau Teachers” sign remains in the window of the now-empty Marie Drake Building. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

A “Support Juneau Teachers” sign remains in the window of the now-empty Marie Drake Building. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

The Assembly has also approved a $75,000 for design of a playground at the Dzantik’i Heeni campus.

A project manager is developing an estimate to build a playground for the school and surrounding neighborhood. Students, staff and parents will be asked to provide input during the next school year. The plan is to be ready to break ground once the construction season starts in the new year.

In addition to moving schools, the district is hiring head coaches and advisors for the consolidated schools next year. All coaches and advisors were released from their contracts at the end of the school year as part of a letter of agreement the district reached with the Juneau Education Association about the hiring process for the consolidated schools. Interested incumbents were invited to apply for openings in the consolidated middle and high schools and were considered first.

JSD will be holding Proactive Coaching workshops in August. Proactive Coaching “works with coaches and teams to help intentionally create character-based team cultures, provide a blueprint for team leadership, develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors, and train coaches for excellence and significance,” according to the “Transitions” newsletter.

• Contact Jasz Garrett at jasz.garrett@juneauempire.com or (907) 723-9356.

Alexis Griffin, a 2021 Thunder Mountain High School graduate, picks up a yearbook Monday from former teacher Janna Lelchuk. She participated in the yearbook for three years. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Alexis Griffin, a 2021 Thunder Mountain High School graduate, picks up a yearbook Monday from former teacher Janna Lelchuk. She participated in the yearbook for three years. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Former Thunder Mountain High School yearbook teacher Janna Lelchuk holds up the 2015-2016 yearbook “Into the Blue,” which won first place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s yearbook competition. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Former Thunder Mountain High School yearbook teacher Janna Lelchuk holds up the 2015-2016 yearbook “Into the Blue,” which won first place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s yearbook competition. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

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