Shock, sadness expressed by parents, teachers at Anchorage schools facing closures
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After the announcement that six elementary schools in town are facing possible closures in the future, Anchorage School District Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said most of them would likely be repurposed, with the exception of Abbott Loop Elementary, which would be demolished.
“Closing a school is not anything the administration takes lightly,” Bryantt said in an announcement Tuesday. “Schools are the heartbeat of our community. But we believe that by right-sizing our district, there is a path to improve the quality of education for our students.”
For students, parents, teachers and other staff across the district, it comes with sadness as the harsh reality of the budget deficit comes under the spotlight.
“One of my aunts that’s lived here for a few decades — when she came to visit, she said, ‘Oh Abbott Loop is still here,’ and was happy to see it still here, so it would be sad if this school would be closed, it’s been here for decades,” Helena Schitz, an Abbott Loop Elementary parent, said.
Over the years, parents say neighborhood school communities like Abbott Loop have built close relationships with their children. The effect on the students is a concern shared by Gina Wetzel and Helena Harmon, two Pre-K teachers at Birchwood Elementary School.
“We have a very specialized program at Birchwood, it’s Birchwood ABC — Anchorage Basic Curriculum — so it’s unlike other programs throughout the district,” Harmon said. “(Also), we have several special education programs, we have two different self-contained programs for special education at Birchwood. So just thinking of those families alone, if there’s an upcoming transition to another building, that’s going to be a big upheaval for our kids.”
“It was really emotional for some,” Wetzel said. “Like I said, not that I didn’t take the news to be a shock, but I’m not as emotionally attached as many who have spent their whole career at Birchwood. So it was some hard news to find out.”
District consultant Shannon Bingham explained that in addition to declining enrollment, about 5,000 students have left schools across the district, and there are now 18 ASD schools that are only about two-thirds full.
The Anchorage School Board will have more surveys and town halls starting next month so that the community can be involved in the upcoming decisions.
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