‘We need action now’: Students voice opinions to school board on returning to in-person classes

“Silence was not an option and I don’t think it is an option right now, not until we are safe in the classroom again,” Eagle River High School junior Sarah Price.
ASD remains closed to in person learning through the first semester
ASD remains closed to in person learning through the first semester(Scott Gross)
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 4:57 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tuesday night, the Eagle River High School junior Sarah Price gave her two cents in front of the Anchorage School District School Board.

“We are suffering and we are a resilient generation,” Price said. “We are overcoming many challenges but we can’t overcome the health of sitting in front of your computer for upwards of five hours a day.”

Price, like many of her fellow peers across the Anchorage School District, wants to return to in-person classes.

“Not being able to contact any of your friends, not being able to have relationships with your teachers,” Price said. “There’s nothing that can replace that.”

She pleaded with the school board and the superintendent to do something to help return students to classrooms.

“We need action now because keeping our schools closed is not saving lives,” Price said. “It is ruining tens of thousands.”

The Anchorage School District is ready and released a public service announcement this week asking for the community’s help to get students back into their buildings.

“What the community can do is do their part,” Behavioral Specialist at Willow Crest Elementary Victoria Hoogland said. “Wear a mask, social distance and then we can have our kids back in school. You’re not going to learn without your mental health being where it needs to be.”

Hoogland sees on daily basis the struggles some students are having with distance learning.

“Some students and families are thriving,” Hoogland said. “Others are really struggling. We have some teachers who are doing small groups of tutoring in person and that is really targeting those students who are having those difficulties and students who really need an in person setting.”

Hoogland says the school district has many resources and counselors for students and families who are struggling. She also recommends getting outside often, coloring, puzzles and working with arts and crafts.

It will take the communities help in order for kids to return to school. It doesn’t appear it will happen in the near future as record COVID-19 numbers continue. While ASD administrators talk daily about return plans, under the current conditions, the soonest middle school and high school students could return is at the beginning of the fourth quarter which begins in mid-March of 2021.

“The effects of online school are going to be carried with us for the rest of our lives,” Price said. “For our youngest in elementary school they are missing out on crucial academics and basic social and emotional learning that they need at that age. For our middle school friends, they are going through the most complicated part of their lives and going through it alone. For us in high school, we are in the state with the highest suicide rate so keeping us away from school is dangerous.”

ASD notes that while everyone is impacted by the pandemic in different ways, students are bearing an undue burden. They lack necessary educational, physical and mental health supports. For the school district and the many students who feel the same way as Sarah Price, to go back to in person learning requires a commitment from the entire community.

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