Anchorage School Board to consider delaying school year

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 6:02 AM AKST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 6:10 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A possible halt of classes is now on the table for the Anchorage School District after they made the call to delay the start of in-person learning. The proposal came at a special school board meeting Monday night to discuss the delay.

After board members and the district briefly discussed the effects of delaying the year, Board Member Starr Marsett moved to put an action item on the board’s Nov. 16 agenda halting classes until January and delaying the school year.

“The other thing I’d like to propose or have a discussion on is the return of all students by February first,” she added.

Board President Elisa Vakalis agreed to have the discussion on halting classes at the next meeting but noted the Feb. 1 deadline would be a longer discussion.

Otherwise, much of the conversation Monday centered around the list of factors the district is looking at for decisions on in-person learning. Some board members argued the criteria hadn’t been effectively communicated, and that community members were confused over what ultimately impacts the Superintendent’s decision to move forward with or delay in-person learning.

“In this case, I think a lot of people felt like it was more of a black box thing,” said Board Member Andy Holleman. “They couldn’t tell what might happen that would influence it one way or the other.”

District officials pointed to a set of criteria from the CDC, tracked on the district’s website that they look at, but also noted the big picture of all of those factors is more difficult to quantify.

“Now what’s entering the picture is another set of metrics which we can’t put numbers to, which are metrics around social health, emotional health, mental health, the growing achievement gap,” said Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock.

As for which factor led to the latest delay, Superintendent Deena Bishop indicated the final deciding factor was current hospitalization numbers, as well as recent staffing troubles in Alaska hospitals.

“What was noted, that occurred really quickly in the last week is what we responded to in the hospitalizations,” she said.

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