From next week to March 9, Anchorage school days will be 30 minutes longer

A snowplow pushes through thick snow on a residential street.
A snowplow in Anchorage on Dec. 12, 2022. Three back-to-back snowstorms in December closed schools for an unprecedented number of days. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage School District students will be in class for 30 minutes longer than normal from Jan. 30 through March 9. The Anchorage School Board approved the extended days Monday night to make up for class time lost due to an unprecedented string of snow days in December.

Anchorage students have had a total of seven snow days this year — six of them in just two weeks when the city got hit by a trio of massive snowstorms. The district only allocates two snow days in a school year. 

Extending the school days by 30 minutes makes up for three full school days. The other two will be made up by turning Feb. 22 and 23 — which were half days set aside for parent-teacher conferences — into full days and making a scheduled in-service day on Feb. 24 an in-school day. 

During Monday night’s school board meeting, only two people provided testimony on the school day extension. Both were employees with the Alaska Rock Gym concerned with the impact on children in the gym’s after-school programs. 

Anchorage Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said there was no perfect plan to address the “unprecedented” number of snow days, but the district’s plan was better than extending the school year into summer. 

“This plan truly prioritizes student learning, places an emphasis on the importance of instruction — particularly where we’re at in terms of student proficiency, both in ASD and across the state— but is also minimally disruptive to the calendar,” Bryantt said.

School board members voted unanimously in favor of the district’s plan. Member Kelly Lessens said she’d heard both concerns and praise from many parents in the city on the proposal. 

“I had parents come up and say, ‘This is wonderful. I can work 30 minutes longer,’” Lessens said. “I had parents share with me that this was terrible, that they had important medical appointments for their children that were scheduled on a regular basis.”

Ultimately, Lessens called the extension, “the best of a bad situation.”

While students will now be in class during some of the time reserved for parent-teacher conferences, Bryant said parents should still have the option to schedule one-on-one meetings with their students’ teachers.

Students should return to their normal schedules when they return to school after spring break.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org

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