Anchorage School District lays out early plans for Fall
The Anchorage School Board voted to delay the start of the 2020/21 academic year at their Tuesday night meeting from August 18 to the 20, as well as looked at preliminary plans for a school system that would try to keep students in smaller groups.
The decision to delay the start was made in part to give teachers some extra time to prepare, but also to make sure it didn’t clash with Alaska’s August primary election.
“So that we don’t have a large number of community members coming into our buildings with our staff and students,” said School Board President Elisa Vakalis.
The meeting began with a review of feedback ASD had received from a survey about the last quarter of remote learning. The responses were mostly negative.
“The general view from the public, from the students, parents, and staff, was that distance learning ranged from somewhat worse to much worse than how they viewed in-person learning,” said ASD Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock.
One of the most common comments they received was that it was much harder to juggle classes online than in-person.
big complaint about the Spring,” Stock said. “When kids were trying, in high school, to take six classes online.”
As a way to avoid that, and minimize contact between students and teachers, the district proposed a “Cohort/Quarter” system that would put students in smaller groups that focused on a couple subjects for a longer period of time.
“Think of it as the old-school, self-contained, one-room schoolhouse,” Stock said.
Under the system, middle and high school students would take two 90-minute core classes such as math or English language arts, and two 45-minute electives. Those classes would last for a 9-week period before switching. At the elementary level, the schedules would be more flexible, as decided by individual schools.
School board members were interested in the preliminary version of the plan, but did offer questions and feedback, including some worries about students losing practice in the subjects they’re not currently studying.
“I am concerned about students having a break in math being able to meet their academic goals,” said School Board Member Alisha Hilde.
Based on that feedback, the district is taking the plan to a number of working groups they’ve formed to further refine it.
“The working teams, starting tomorrow, are off and running on trying to organize this curriculum,” Stock said.