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School on Little Diomede closed indefinitely due to safety concerns

Little Diomede
Little Diomede, August 2008. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm.

The school on Little Diomede Island is closed indefinitely after the city building partially collapsed into the school Sunday morning (Nov 26). That’s according to a Facebook post by the Diomede School late Sunday night. Students will now be attending school by video conference. 

Bering Strait School District (BSSD) announced the closure of the village’s school at a meeting Monday (Nov 27).

The State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) received reports Sunday that the stilts beneath the city building had completely rotted, causing it to lean on the school.

Susan Nedza is the Chief School Administrator for the district and located in Unalakleet. She said the principal of Little Diomede and workers shared photos of the building collapse Sunday and that the district’s maintenance team has examined the photos and reached out to a landscaping company to get a leveling assessment. 

“We don’t know how stable it is, we know that the building moved,” she said. “We know that there’s a significant crack through the middle of that section of the building, through the classrooms.”

Nedza said the district is waiting for the city building to be removed, and until then, they can’t safely assess the extent of the damages. She hopes it doesn’t get worse but calls it “a waiting game.”

“We’re hoping that it can be removed in a controlled manner rather than just falling down over time.”

Nedza said teachers were living in housing at the school and will be relocated to other schools in the district due to safety concerns. She said they will still be teaching through Zoom. 

“We’re working on getting Chromebooks out to families,” Nedza said. “We’ve got a list of who has internet and who can group up with who to share internet and those kinds of things.”

With Starlink now active in Little Diomede, Nedza said internet access is now better than it used to be.

“It’s a little better than what we had during COVID, because there is through Starlink, some internet access.”

Nedza said the district is also working on providing food services. She said the school’s kitchen is unstable, but they plan to try to get some prepackaged meals distributed to students in the near-future. For some families in the district, she said the school’s ability to provide breakfast and lunch make a considerable difference.

Diomede’s tribal coordinator, Frances Ozenna, said a group of residents are closely watching the city building as it continues to slide into the school. She said the incident has shocked village residents.

Updates will be posted to the Diomede School Facebook page.

Photo at top: The Bering Strait island village is located 135 miles northwest of Nome. (KNOM Files)

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