‘King Cove School Supports Community Through 8.2 Earthquake’ by Principal Paul Barker

For the most part, life in King Cove is very peaceful. It’s a calm, good hearted community ground in deep family ties and traditions, an outdoor lifestyle, and culturally rich values. Being the principal of our small school of 70 students is largely the same. Our students are pleasant and hard working, the staff is professional, caring, and dedicated to student success, and the building and surrounding land it sits on is national park status beautiful. The City of King Cove is home to Peter Pan Seafoods, one of the largest by volume fish processing facilities in the state.

King Cove School is part of the Aleutians East Borough School District

Without question, the best part of being the principal of King Cove School is the unity, relationships, and community integration that our school has. Every organization is connected to each other very tightly. We all share resources, communicate, and work together on projects that vary from fishing derbies to community clean up days. We support each other and have one another’s backs. So, on the evening of July 28th, 2021 when a magnitude 8.2 earthquake shook the region from Perryville to Cold Bay, I knew exactly what was coming.

King Cove School sits on a hillside above the city

Thankfully, despite the tsunami alert siren blasting its ominous tone, it wasn’t a wave. However, our school, which sits elevated on a hillside, happens to be the Tsunami Evacuation Center for the entire community.  Therefore, I knew that as soon as shaking ended, and after I had a chance to check to make sure my house and dogs were safe, I had about 20 minutes before approximately 200-300 Peter Pan Seafoods employees evacuated to the school building. I met a few teachers that had evacuated their homes at the entrance and started to hand out thermometers and boxes of masks. As we took temperatures and handed out face masks, we could see the fear in their eyes.

King Cove School Staff handing out masks and water
King Cove School served as the tsunami shelter during the July 2021 earthquake

For a lot of them, they had not even been in King Cove very long before that night. More than one asked if we knew when the wave was coming. We did what we could to help make them comfortable during the 3-hour period that we waited at the school until the “all clear” was given by our local Department of Public Safety. At 2:00am, we finally did the last door check of the night before heading home. Despite the late night, and going from getting ready for bed to managing an evacuation center, it was and is always worth it. You can’t compare the experiences you have living in a place like King Cove, AK to anything else in the world, and I was happy to help do my part to keep our community safe that night.