Anchorage charter school struggles to bring all students back to the classroom

Eagle Academy Charter school doesn't have room for all its students
Eagle Academy Charter school doesn't have room for all its students(ktuu)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:53 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Most Anchorage elementary schools are back to in-person learning but some charter schools in the district face hurdles when it comes to bringing all of their students back full time. Eagle Academy in Eagle River is one of them.

According to Principal Deanne Carroll, the school has 165 students enrolled this year and all but 11 wanted to return to the classroom when the option became available on January 19. But the school quickly discovered it couldn’t meet the city emergency order that limited classrooms to just 50% occupancy based on building and fire codes, and still have all its students in the building at once.

“With the municipal 50% capacity per classroom we weren’t able to bring all our kiddos back at the same time,” Carroll said. “So, in order to make sure that we have some equity, we decided to split our kids up.”

Now, half the student body comes for morning sessions of in-class instruction in language arts and math. In the afternoon they learn their social studies, science and “specials” at home on-line. The routine is reversed for the rest of the students who come to the classroom in the afternoon.

Carroll said having students for half days isn’t ideal, but like many charter schools, their building isn’t big enough to spread students out in other areas.

“We don’t have the building space. And even if we did, we wouldn’t have the staffing to be able to split our classes in half and have enough coverage and instruction for all that.”

Carroll says it is working but it’s also meant sacrifices for teachers and parents who would like to see students back in class full time.

“It’s been super frustrating because our parents really want it, our teachers want it, and we are just waiting for conditions to be safe enough for us to bring everybody back,” she said.

Carroll is hoping the Municipality may change the emergency order so that student capacity in the classroom can increase. The Anchorage School District has been in talks with the Municipality on the subject. The District said classroom capacity could become an issue when middle and high schools reopen in mid-March.

“It is fair to say the current EO will present some challenges for secondary schools when students come back,” the District wrote in an email.

“However, the District is confident we’ll get to a place where secondary students can return to a safe and enriching learning environment.”

Many charter schools are hoping for the same.

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