Anchorage parents, students ask school board to keep funding for language immersion programs

Audrie Bowman is an eighth grader in the Japanese immersion program at Mears Middle School. She asked the Anchorage school board to continue funding language immersion programs at a board meeting on Oct. 4, 2022. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)

Students, parents and alumni asked the Anchorage School Board to keep funding for language immersion programs at a packed meeting Tuesday night.

It was standing room only inside the boardroom. Other attendees watched on a screen out in the lobby.

The district faces a budget gap of at least $68 million next year and has sought input from families on potential cuts. At Tuesday’s meeting, multiple parents said losing their child’s language immersion program could prompt them to leave Anchorage.

Maria Horn-Rollins has a fourth grader at Government Hill Elementary, which hosts one of two Spanish immersion programs in the district. She says her daughter’s bilingual education was important to their whole family.

“At a time when being Mexican continues to be a liability in this country, the Spanish immersion program at Government Hill is reinforcing Nola’s pride in her Mexican heritage and her love for the Spanish language,” she said.

Zoe Parrish is a fifth grader at Government Hill. She introduced herself in Spanish and said she enjoyed the added challenge of studying history and science in Spanish.

“I know that you’re in the difficult position to cut funds for our schools, but I ask you, please don’t deprive other kids of learning a new language,” Parrish said.

The district runs eight language immersion programs. District leaders are considering a range of cuts, including shrinking its virtual learning program and reducing planning periods for middle school teachers.

The board plans to discuss potential school closures at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Parents, students and other community members watch a livestream of the school board meeting outside the boardroom on Oct. 4, 2022. (Katie Anastas/Alaska Public Media)
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