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No set date for in-person learning at ASD yet

Levels of community spread are still too high
The Anchorage School District logo at the district's headquarters in Anchorage
The Anchorage School District logo at the district's headquarters in Anchorage
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 11:52 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - COVID-19 cases and student enrollment — those are the two things Anchorage School District officials said they are watching closely. COVID-19 cases determine when students can return to in-person learning and enrollment numbers determine how much money the state and municipality will give them, but neither of those inspired confidence at a school board meeting Tuesday night.

For local case numbers, based on the metrics set by the state, ASD cannot resume in-person learning yet. Though ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said she remained hopeful numbers will be low enough before the semester ends in December, she later clarified that she hoped they would be low enough by the quarter mark in mid-October.

Details, such as what age groups could switch to in-person learning and when, will be discussed at a different meeting on Wednesday night.

“They’re quite sporadic right now, but hopefully as they trend down, and they have been trending down since July, we can get students back as quickly as possible,” she said.

The numbers for enrollment were similarly poor. ASD is currently down 9%, or roughly 4,000 students compared to this time last year, which equates to a large drop in funding.

“We would lose out about $14 million in state and local revenue,” said ASD Chief Financial Officer Jim Anderson.

Also, certain programs need another $10 million because of higher than expected numbers and transportation funding is down about $2 million. All of that adds up to a $26 million deficit, though there are some lower costs as well.

“There will be some savings, and some much lower expenses, fuel maintenance, other items, workers comp, certainly not enough to cover a $26 million shortfall,” Anderson said.

But enrollment can still go up and Bishop said they’re waiting to see what the numbers look like by the end of the month.

“Generally it continues to grow a little bit through September, so we’re making those decisions, allowing for it to settle down, and then readjusting staff again,” she said.

The meeting also included several public commenters on two main topics: renaming East High School after the late Sen. Bettye Davis, a recommendation that came from a committee formed by the Anchorage Assembly, and improving conditions for principals. The contract between ASD and the Anchorage Principals' Association expired in 2020 and APA president Patrick Freeman argued it’s time ASD principals saw a raise in pay.

“We have begun another year without a percentage raise, which marks the fourth straight year,” he said. “Despite this we have continued to lead through some of the toughest times, which include a devastating earthquake and an ongoing worldwide pandemic.”

Bishop commented on naming a school after Davis, saying the process is ongoing and requires a certain amount of public participation, but that she was hopeful the it would be done before the Alaska Black Caucus’ Bettye Davis African American Summit in February.

clarification: This story has been edited to reflect a clarification from ASD on when students could resume in-person learning after Superintendent Deena Bishop misspoke at a school board meeting.

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