Emotions run high at first ASD town hall for possible school closures

Emotions run high at first ASD town hall for possible school closures
Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 9:58 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The first of six town hall meetings centered on possible school closures in the Anchorage School District was held Thursday night at Birchwood ABC Elementary, and it drew quite a crowd.

The gatherings are designed to give the public an opportunity to voice their opinions about different cuts the school district is considering.

“We’re here to listen, understand, and gain your perspective on what we’re proposing to do,” district consultant Shannon Bingham told people in the room.

A brief presentation included details on the six schools recommended for closure, a list that includes Abbott Loop, Birchwood ABC, Klatt, Nunaka Valley, Northwood and Wonder Park elementary schools.

According to a graphic in the presentation, if Birchwood ABC closed, the students attending that school would likely be moved to Homestead Elementary.

Once public testimony began, the emotions came out. Public testifiers were given three minutes to ask questions or give feedback as ASD looks for solutions to its budget deficit. Most were against the closure of Birchwood ABC, a school that the district says focuses on the Anchorage Basic Curriculum, or “ABC” philosophy, emphasizing “character development, citizenship and patriotism with students.”

Many were emotional over the possibility of their school being closed.

“I have a third grader that wants to sell Pokemon cards to raise money for the school, which just breaks my heart,” related one concerned parent. “Our kids are the future. That’s their motto — we are the future — and we’re not giving them a very good future right now.”

“If you can assure us as parents that our children are going to have the exemplary outcomes we have here as Homestead, and by that, I mean socially and academically,” another parent said. “Because that is why we’re here, and I think you might find that a lot of parents would leave the district if we didn’t have this school.”

Others that voiced concerns said the movement of students from Birchwood ABC to other schools would hinder the curriculum the school has set in place.

“It saddens me that the ABC program will be shut down,” one parent said. “It’s successful because of the environment we maintain, it cannot carry on in a mixed environment to the same potential.”

“I don’t see how picking this program up and putting it somewhere else will have the same results as here and now,” another parent said.

Several Anchorage School Board members attended on Thursday. There are still five more town halls scheduled over the next month:

  • Nov. 4 at Northwood Elementary School
  • Nov. 14 at Nunaka Valley Elementary School
  • Nov. 16 at Klatt Elementary School
  • Nov. 21 at Abbott Loop Elementary School
  • Nov. 22 at Wonder Park Elementary School

All meetings will start at 6 p.m.