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ASD sets February for makeup of school days missed because of earthquake

Anchorage School District students will make up in February some of the school days lost to the weeklong, post-earthquake closure of all schools in December.

Cleanup and repair work at Bartlett High School on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, as a result of the Nov. 30 7.0 earthquake. (Bill Roth / ADN)

On Tuesday, the Anchorage School Board approved a plan to change the district calendar for the week of Feb. 18.

The week was previously scheduled to have early release Wednesday and Thursday for parent-teacher conferences and no school Friday for students while teachers participated in professional development.

Under the new plan, students will still have Monday, Feb. 18, off because it’s Presidents Day, a federal holiday. The rest of the week will be full school days for students.

Principals will work with schools to make sure parent-teacher meetings still happen -- but there won’t be time set aside for them, said district spokeswoman Catherine Esary.

“We’re not going to get comfortable not doing parent-teacher conferences," Superintendent Deena Bishop told the school board on Tuesday night. "This is just a short-term fix for an unexpected emergency.”

ASD canceled school for a week in the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 30 earthquake, which damaged each of the district’s 90-plus facilities.

Students missed school Dec. 3 to 7 and returned on Dec. 10.

The plan approved by the school board Tuesday night will:

• Allow the district to declare Monday, Dec. 3, a “district emergency closure day.” The district will request that the state commissioner of education excuse the missed days between Dec. 4 and Dec. 6.

• Allow the district to make up some of the lost instructional time by extending scheduled half-days in February for parent-teacher conferences to full days.

• The district will still have an extra “emergency closure” day built into this school year -- typically used for inclement weather -- “should the need arise.”

The question of what to do about the missing days was the subject of lengthy debate at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The board and district considered other plans to make up the days, including adding days to the end of the school year, subtracting from spring break or even adding minutes to school days.

The board knows the week of Presidents Day is a popular time for families to travel, and some may already have plans, said school board chair Starr Marsett.

Principals have been told to “work with your students, work with your staff. If they have plans, don’t let students get behind,” she said.

Ultimately, the district and board thought the plan to extend the parent-teacher conference days was the least disruptive. Anchorage Education Association president Tom Klaameyer called the proposal “the least of the worst options.”

School board members Andy Holleman, Marsett, Alisha Hilde and Deena Mitchell voted for the proposal Tuesday night. Board members Mark Foster and Dave Donley voted no.

Board member Elisa Snelling was not present, according to online board documents.

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