Anchorage schools now prepared for remote learning during snow days

A sign displaying "Anchorage School District" with snow on the letters.
The sign on the Anchorage School District Education Center is blanketed with fresh snow following three large storms in the area that closed schools for more than 4 days. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media).

The Anchorage School District is prepared to move children to remote learning in the event a snow day closes schools. The change comes a month after a trio of winter storms closed schools for six days.

Sven Gustafson, chief academic officer with the district, says when schools closed during the pandemic, students were learning virtually. Middle and high-school students now have school-issued laptops to use for classes. However, Gustafson says elementary schools weren’t equipped to switch over to remote learning.

“We hadn’t set up any kind of remote learning piece, because this is the first time in 20 years we’ve had such a snow event,” Gustafson said.

Even though middle and high schoolers could’ve worked from home during the snow days, all district schools follow the same schedule. So if one group couldn’t learn remotely, all of them had to cancel classes. 

Over winter break, Gustafson says he worked with each elementary school to make sure they had a remote learning plan that doesn’t require a laptop.

“That takes so much,” Gustafson said. “A parent has to log on, it’s so hard for families. So a lot of the schools have developed packets that can be sent home with kids for those remote learning days.”

While a snow day hasn’t happened this month, district officials approved a plan this week to extend school days by 30 minutes for more than a month to make up for lost class time.

Gustafson says he’s hopeful the new plan will mean that snow days won’t impact learning to this degree in the future. 

“It allows for less disruption in families’ lives, I hope,” Gustafson said. “You know, adding 30 minutes, we’ve heard from a lot of families that’s a hard thing.”

In the meantime, school days in Anchorage will be 30 minutes longer starting on Monday, until spring break starts on March 10.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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