Anchorage School District leaders are recommending that six elementary schools close next year in an effort to reduce a $68 million budget gap.
Those schools are Abbott Loop, Birchwood, Klatt, Nunaka Valley, Northwood and Wonder Park Elementary.
At a work session on Tuesday, consultant Shannon Bingham said the list is based on several factors.
“We’re looking at schools that are declining,” he said. “We’re looking at boundaries. We’re looking at schools that are adjacent to each other where a combined result would continue to be an effective educational environment for those children. We’re looking at transportation, pedestrian issues and future growth.”
Bingham also outlined where those students would go to school instead. He suggested that Abbott Loop be demolished and the other five buildings be repurposed. The Abbott Loop property is owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, not the Anchorage School District, so that land is not a potential source of revenue for the district, said district chief financial officer Jim Anderson.
The district will hold town hall meetings at each elementary school recommended for closure starting Nov. 2.
Anderson said closing all six schools could save the district between $3.5 and 4 million, or around 5% of the deficit. But, he said, there are other benefits to closing schools, like improving staffing levels.
“We started the school year seven nurses short, and 12 schools without cafeteria managers,” he said. “I probably don’t need to talk about bus drivers.”
School closures are one of several ways the district could cut costs. Anderson said he and Bingham will present the board with recommendations on cuts to immersion programs and administrative positions in November.
Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said final decisions on school closures won’t be made by the school board until December. The board must submit a balanced budget in February.