Protests over delayed in-person learning and a potential school rename at Anchorage School Board meeting

Public testimony was mixed between frustrations over online learning and renaming a school...
Public testimony was mixed between frustrations over online learning and renaming a school after Bettye Davis.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 6:28 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Before Tuesday night’s Anchorage School Board meeting, a protest began outside the Anchorage School District Education center with parents and children upset about the decision to delay in-person learning. Protestors and others attended or called into the meeting to voice their frustrations with the district and its online system.

“As a student who usually excels, I have found myself feeling as if I am drowning,” said Elizabeth Collevecchio, a senior at Bartlett High School. “My therapist has told me her waiting list has become miles long, filled with teenagers who are cracking under the pressure of this school year.”

Some teachers called in to support waiting to return to in-person learning, but most testifying on the issue supported reopening schools. ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop spoke on the subject after public testimony, saying the reopening plan had health official support until Anchorage’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases. She added the decision to keep schools closed was not an easy one and acknowledged the pressure online learning puts on students.

“It is not a sign of weakness in making a decision,” she said. “I’m letting you know, COVID is killing our children in more ways than one, and we need to stand for children today.”

No date was given for a possible return to in-person learning.

Also on the agenda was a proposal to rename Fairview Elementary and the East High Auditorium after the late Sen. Bettye Davis.

In recent meetings, numerous callers have given testimony in favor of renaming East High School itself after the Davis, but a community survey done by ASD showed the proposed options were the most popular among those connected with Fairview, East and Airport Heights, which was another potential option in the naming. However, multiple school board members raised concerns over the way the survey was done and whether it really reflected the community’s feelings. Board Vice President Margo Bellamy argued Davis’s legacy extends past those three schools and that a community-wide survey may have been more appropriate.

“I mean I’m sure, Fairview would want Bettye,” she said. “There’s not a doubt, but that doesn’t reflect- I don’t think that reflects what the community is wanting.”

That proposal did pass, but before any renaming happens, the item must go back before the board as an action item, which opens it up to potential amendments. Member Alisha Hilde brought up the possibility of renaming whatever school is chosen into the Bettye Davis Leadership Academy.

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