ASD superintendent defensive about Mayor Bronson’s criticism of keeping schools closed while roads went unplowed

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:08 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:10 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage School District Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt responded Thursday to Mayor Dave Bronson’s criticism of schools being closed for the three days in a row this week.

Bronson made it clear he was “very disappointed” with the school districts decision during an interview with Alaska’s News Source on Tuesday night. Although school campuses were closed, students across the district had remote learning days, doing their lessons from home.

Bryantt said there were enough problems getting kids to school due to road conditions and significant amounts of snow on Thursday.

“ASD opened our doors on Thursday — this morning — and seven buses needed assistance to be pulled out of roads that had a lot of snow, all buses experienced delays, and one school couldn’t open at all,” Bryantt said. “So if the mayor wanted school to be open on Wednesday, I’m sorry to disappoint him — we could barely open on Thursday.

Bryantt also called for better leadership.

“We’re in desperate need of the state and city’s leadership, because there’s been a strategy failure.”

ASD maintained contact with the mayor while coordinating efforts to clear roadways — because without city roads cleared, students can’t get to school safely.

Bryantt said did not expect the mayor to express disappointment with ASD’s decision, which he says was made largely due to road conditions. After this experience, he recognizes this as an “urgent issue” and things need to change.

“For the second winter in a row, ASD has been put in a position where we’ve had to close schools when it’s not even snowing. And that must be really frustrating for families to grapple with — but what I want the community to understand that it doesn’t need to snow for there to be a crisis in our city and that’s where we were at. Despite the fact it was not actively snowing to my recollection, there was a lot of snow on our roads,” Bryantt said.

Bryantt says the snowstorms were making it unsafe for student to head to school for parts of the week, causing ASD to decide to move to online learning for continuity of instruction. Although it wasn’t snowing on parts of Tuesday and Wednesday, there were significant amounts of snow on the roads.

”We had to make a difficult decision to close our schools because we have students that attend school across 2,000 square miles, from Girdwood to Chugiak. We have a lot of buildings, a lot of students, and a lot of roads,” Bryantt said.

Bryantt maintains that kids do need to be in school — but only when it’s safe to get there.

“We do have a number of students that have buses that pick them up at their door, and that’s where the strategic issues that we’re having as a state and as a city around snow removal are really impacting students access to learning in school,” Bryantt said.

Bryantt urges the state and city leaders to take action to prioritize plowing neighborhoods where school buses are picking up kids.

The Anchorage School District will be providing excused absences for students that weren’t able to make it to school due to road or weather conditions on Thursday and Friday.

“Always err on the side of safety. ASD has your back — if you don’t feel comfortable being on the roads tomorrow, if your not comfortable sending your kid to school, give the school a call,” Bryantt said.

Whether or not ASD campuses will open Friday depends on weather and conditions on roadways. ASD will be sending out emails to update families on road conditions and if schools will be opening again Friday morning.

Bronson has yet to respond to our request to speak about Superintendent Bryantt’s concerns.