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ANCCS can’t welcome students back into their building, searching for short term fix

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 9:25 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The youngest students in the Anchorage School District have, for the most part, returned to in-person learning. One exception is the students of the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School.

“We are in an older building, this building was built in the 50′s and through COVID we discovered there are some ventilation problems. So the school isn’t cycling the air as it should so therefore we can’t bring students back in right now until it’s fixed,” says Martha Gould-Lehe, President of the Academic Policy Committee for ANCCS.

ASD along with the building’s landlord has been made aware of the problem and though they are working to rectify the issue, the belief is that there is no quick fix. With their building unavailable for use and with the pandemic ongoing finding new space somewhere in the city has proven to be a challenge.

Capacity limits in buildings are an impediment that normally wouldn’t exist. In terms of how much space is needed, ANCCS has about 295 students ranging from pre-K through 8th grade. Even when that number is cut down to the grade groups currently aloud to return for in-person learning based on district rules the space isn’t available.

Other schools don’t have enough room and while secondary options, like splitting parts of the school into different available areas, have been considered there still aren’t any concrete answers.

“It’s been pretty challenging as far as looking at alternative sights, there’s not a lot out there and we know that the buildings that we would like to see our students in, some of them are just not adequate for students or they just aren’t safe. So finding the right fit for us is something that’s also been a barrier. But we also know that everything we do is for these kids and if we can get them into school for fourth quarter that would be wonderful,” says Principal Sheila Sweetsir.

While the short-term goal for the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School is to find space for its students, long term they hope they won’t have to worry about the issues of a building that opened in the 1950s.

Editor’s note: A line about raising money to build a new school for the students has been removed after clarification that the money cannot be put toward the purchase of a building, but toward paying down the lease of that building once they’re an occupant.

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