Why one Anchorage elementary school stayed closed last Thursday

The short answer is no one showed up to plow the road
Why one Anchorage elementary school stayed closed last Thursday
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 5:03 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When Anchorage School District officials announced last Thursday the roads were clear enough for schools to reopen, many parents were relieved.

But families who attend O’Malley Elementary School didn’t get the good news: O’Malley was the only school that wouldn’t open Thursday due to dangerous road conditions.

The problem was the only road leading to the school, Rockridge Drive, wasn’t plowed, and no one seemed to know who was supposed to do it.

Technically, the road is considered part of the Upper O’Malley Limited Road Service Area (LRSA), where members pay to have their roads plowed by private contractors.

But Rockridge isn’t located near other roads in the service area and the people who live on it don’t pay dues to the LRSA, according to assembly member Zac Johnson, who represents South Anchorage and Girdwood.

In August, members of the Upper O’Malley LRSA sent both the city and the school district a letter stating they would no longer be plowing Rockridge Drive.

“I don’t know what happened to the letter with respect to whether they received it,” said Mark Corsentino, a board member of the Upper O’Malley LRSA. “We assumed they received it, but why they never got back — we didn’t know if they would or not anyway. It was one of those situations. So we put contact information to reach back out to us and that just never happened. "

On Monday, ASD said it never received the letter and the mayor’s office said it was still looking into it.

Johnson said it may have been a misunderstanding over who was responsible, but as soon as it was clear the road hadn’t been plowed, both the city and members of the LRSA board took action.

“Once we kind of realized that Rockridge had been neglected, I started reaching out to the LRSA board and administration and everyone immediately wanted to work to find a way to get it resolved,” Johnson said. “By early in the afternoon I was on the phone with the mayor and he said he was going to send a grader out there right away and then the LRSA board made a similar effort.

“So there was a little bit of duplication there but I just think it speaks to everyone’s sense of urgency to make sure that we got it addressed as quickly as we could.”

The Upper O’Malley LRSA board has agreed to keep the road plowed this winter until a permanent solution can be found.

Johnson said he and another assembly member are working on a ballot proposition for the April election that would ask whether Rockridge Drive should be turned over to the municipality to maintain.