ASD looks to the future on a quiet last day of school

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 3:57 PM AKDT
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Summer break is finally here, but it didn't come without some extra hard work from students, teachers and parents who've had to become teachers.

Schools were much quieter Thursday compared to the last day of school in 2019. There sadly can't be any large celebration, but Anchorage School District Superintendent, Deena Bishop, says the achievements are all the same.

Bishop says overall, they were happy with the online participation numbers, given the circumstances. According to ASD, participation numbers in elementary school through high school ranged anywhere from 65% to 85% and remained steady to the end. With financial help from the CARES Act, ASD is able to scale up summer school programs for students needing extra credits to stay on track or get ahead. There are also programs available for parents who just want their child to stay engaged throughout the break.

"Knowing that this nine-week period of online school, as well as really the trauma in many students' lives due to this whether it was lost jobs at home, or homelessness or food insecurity," said Bishop. "All of those experiences weigh in on what we can do as people, as teachers, as kids, as parents, and so we're going to really look again this fall and have a better assessment of how it went."

Bishop says in addition to summer school, the district will be extending school for another month as it is now-- if the student needs it. It will still be all online with the potential for face to face jump start sessions in early August, depending on risk levels at the time.

"Although we dispersed the devices, the computers and the hot spots, if I'm in a family of three children with two adults and there might only be one computer in the home, that's still five people vying for the same resource and so that took us a little bit to understand and we had to redeploy, if you will, additional resources and make sure that individual students and families had their own," said Bishop. "And so some of our kids were a couple of weeks behind just for that."

She also said an advisory and working group will be working on a plan over the summer to determine what the fall semester will look like, and what measures will be put in place to keep students and staff safe, again, depending on the risk level. ASD hopes to have a plan in place ready to release towards the end of July.

"Low risk would be something like, we're back in session, but we know that we have some health mandates that we need to meet," said Bishop. "We may not be eating in cafeterias, our desks might be pushed further apart, different things where kids come into contact with each other, such as passing times. We may need to limit that."

In the meantime, teachers and administrators are working on programs and lesson plans that can be done in person, or online so students get the education they need no matter what that looks like come fall.

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