Successive snow days leave Anchorage schools reliant on remote learning

A sign in a snowbank covered in snow.
The Anchorage School District Education Center on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

A series of winter storms caused Anchorage school administrators to cancel in-person school Tuesday for the third time in less than a week, as teachers and students switch to virtual instruction.

The district made the decision late Sunday to close school buildings Monday in concert with state and city government offices and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, according to Anchorage School District Chief Operating Officer Jim Anderson.

Anchorage schools were closed again Tuesday as municipal and state crews continued to clear snow from roads.

Some parents, including those who have had to stay home from work, have criticized the lack of plowing and the cancellation of in-person school. The district’s Facebook post announcing Tuesday’s closure drew more than 350 comments hotly debating that choice.

“So when we make a decision, it impacts the whole city,” Anderson said. “And we work very closely with everyone we can to make sure that our facts are backed by substantiating weather forecasts and looking at the status of the roads.”

Kersten Johnson, the district’s senior director of secondary teaching and learning, said that the remote learning system established during COVID is an effective way to deliver instruction for students.

“While it’s, I know, frustrating for some families with things that they have going on during weather events, we’re certainly willing to work with families through those,” Johnson said. “And we do believe that remote learning is better than no school for students as we move forward as a district.”

Longtime Kincaid Elementary School teacher Joni Campbell said her own middle and high school-age children had no issues accessing their materials online Monday, but she said it was more difficult for younger students.

“I think it’s a little trickier for primary students because not all students have access to Zoom,” Campbell said. “And so I can’t really require that they attend through Zoom, and I can’t require that the work I email or the packets I sent home – I sent home two packets earlier in preparation for the first snow day – I can’t really require that any of that is returned or completed.”

Campbell said about half of her students logged on to receive instruction Monday, but that varies depending on students’ locations and the subject matter of each class.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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