King Tech High School in Anchorage is still feeling the effects of a major storm that happened in December. Principal Dr. Kern McGinley said the school’s greenhouse collapsed under the weight of heavy snow at 2:40 a.m. on Dec. 15 following two substantial snowstorms.
“I was really shocked but not surprised, considering the amount of snow we had and the age of the structure itself, which is over 40 years old,” McGinley said. McGinley also felt relief that no students were inside when the collapse happened.
In October, the school’s Alaska Farm and Food class moved to a science lab at nearby Wendler Middle School. McGinley said the program had shifted from growing flowers for a popular spring sale to growing sustainable foods indoors, mostly hydroponically. The greenhouse wasn’t particularly suited for that, and McGinley said the cost to heat it in the winter was astronomical.
But students were in the greenhouse as recently as the day before the collapse, according to teacher Kelly Ballantyne. Ballentyne said students working to clear snow from sidewalks had gone inside the greenhouse to plug in a snowblower. “And that was 14 hours before it collapsed, and I was in there with students. That was a little scary for me,” said Ballentyne. “We weren’t in there very often, but we were in there 14 hours before it collapsed.”
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