Residents of Little Diomede, an island village, located 135 miles northwest of Nome, woke up to find that their city building adjacent to the school partially collapsed due to deteriorated stilts, causing it to lean onto the school structure. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.
The Bering Strait School District announced the immediate closure of the village’s school during a meeting. To ensure the continuity of education, the Diomede School shared via social media that students will attend classes remotely through video conferences.
A little over a week later, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration. According to a press release, a structural engineer from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and representatives from Kawerak, the Bering Strait region’s tribal consortium, assessed the situation. They suspect that ground settling and the age of the city building contributed to the collapse. Jeremy Zidek, a public information officer for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security, says that contractors are actively demolishing the building, but the timeline is heavily dependent on weather conditions.
Susan Nedza, the district’s Chief School Administrator based in Unalakleet, highlighted the challenges faced in assessing the situation. Teachers residing in school housing are being relocated to other schools within the district. Despite this transition, education continues as teachers conduct classes remotely through Zoom. Efforts are also underway to provide Chromebooks to families, leveraging the improved internet accessibility now available thanks to the recent activation of Starlink in Little Diomede.
Moreover, the district is dedicated to providing essential services, including plans to distribute prepackaged meals to students, acknowledging the crucial role the school plays in providing meals for families within the district.
Image at top: Little Diomede, a village in the Bering Strait, is only accessible by aircrafts during the winter. (KNOM archives)
Image at bottom: The city building shifts into the school due to rotten stilts. Photo courtesy of Carla Ahkvaluk, used with permission.