After three snowstorms this month created hazardous road conditions and prompted the Anchorage School District to enact an unprecedented string of weather closures, district officials are proposing to add time to the end of some school days — along with other calendar alterations — to make up for lost instructional time.
Three storms brought more than 40 inches of snow to Anchorage over 11 days. At both the state and municipal level, reduced manpower and equipment meant slow going when it came to clearing the mass of snow from roads and sidewalks, and the Anchorage School District had cited hazardous road conditions and the safety of students walking to school or waiting at bus stops in its announcements about school closures.
The school district’s calendar for this year accounted for two weather-related closures, but Anchorage schools ended up being closed for six snow days over the course of this month’s storms. The district had another weather-related closure in November, bringing the total to seven days of missed school so far.
In an update to the Anchorage School Board on Monday, superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said the district is proposing to add 30 minutes to the end of each school day from Jan. 30 through March 9. That will make up the equivalent of three school days.
Bryantt said the district chose Jan. 30 as the starting date “because campus leaders need time to finalize how this impacts school schedules once we get back to school given the upcoming winter holiday.”
The Anchorage School District is also proposing to change Feb. 22 and 23 — currently scheduled as half-days with parent-teacher conferences — into full instructional days, Bryantt said. A professional development day scheduled for Feb. 24 would also be turned into a full school day, Bryantt said.
“This adds roughly five instructional days back to the calendar,” Bryantt said of the proposal. “We recognize that this plan, and any plan, entails tradeoffs. ... The rationale behind this plan is that it minimally alters the calendar and recognizes the importance of instructional time.”
District officials still need to discuss details of the proposal with teachers union leadership, Bryantt said. Then, the plan needs to be approved by the Anchorage School Board and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, he said.
Bryantt also said during the update that remote learning is a viable option for future inclement weather days in the district.
He said the district wasn’t able to shift to remote learning during the recent snowstorms, like the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District did, because students would have needed to come into schools to get technology and paper materials to be able to continue learning at home.
“Given the many consecutive snow days, that was not feasible for a district of our size,” he said.
Bryantt said that he anticipates remote learning will be an “essential part” of the district’s inclement weather strategy moving forward and that he’s asked district staff to begin planning for it.