Voices of Alaska Education
Our Mission: To advocate for children and youth by assisting school boards in providing
quality public education, focused on student achievement, through effective local governance.
Special Edition - May 29, 2020
This is the final issue of Commentary for the 2020 school year.
Publishing will pause during June, July, and August and return in September.
Have a safe summer.
Norm Wooten
AASB Executive Director
A Challenge Met
As we think back over the last several months, it’s difficult to remember what “normal” looks and feels like. It seems as if we’ve been in this “new world” for a lifetime. 

For most of us in education, the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality when we had to close the schoolhouse doors.
As AASB began to brainstorm on how best to serve our members, we quickly concluded that we could be the most help by doing what we have always done – being a trusted resource for school board members.

New Strategic Plan for Alaska’s Early Childhood System Nears Completion
Betsy Brenneman, Preschool Development Grant Coordinator
“Early Childhood Alaska: A Strategic Direction for 2020-2025” is on track to be completed in early June. Underway since October, this new statewide strategic plan offers concrete goals and actions to strengthen and improve Alaska’s complex, fragmented network of programs and services that make up the early childhood system. It points the way to long-desired collaboration between groups working independently in health, education and child care and a new design for a decision-making in the early governance structures.
LKSD Early Learning Centers,
Bethel, 2020. Photo: Betsy Brenneman
Based on findings from a statewide early childhood needs assessment completed in December, the plan focuses on children prenatal through age eight, particularly low-income, rural and disadvantaged children, with the goal of providing equitable access to services and resources and quality affordable care and education. The plan seeks to ensure that every child, in all communities, have opportunities to succeed.

Keeping Children Safe During COVID-19
Clint Campion of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC
Part seven of a series on Technology and the Law.

In the past months, Alaska schools have transitioned from our traditional educational model in brick and mortar classrooms to a 21st century model of students connecting with educators through online video platforms.
Clint Campion
This transition occurred suddenly and without an opportunity to prepare. Parents, guardians, educators and school board members must consider student safety in this new educational environment.

AASB In Brief
2020 School Climate & Connectedness Survey Results Released

32 school districts took the statewide School Climate and Connectedness Survey this past spring. Find out what 37,000 students, 8500 families, and 5600 staff had to say about their schools.

In the midst of a pandemic, student, staff and family perceptions about schools’ strengths and challenges are more important than ever. See the 2020 survey results.

AASB Announces Annual Conference Theme and Call for Presenters

AASB's 2020 Annual Conference theme is Transforming Education Through Connections.

We're looking for school districts to share their experiences. Potential session topics: Building Partnerships, Distance Delivery, Bi-lingual Education, Equity, Conducting Board Meetings, Subsistence Food in Schools.

Interested in presenting?
Contact Jenni Lefing
2020-2021 AASB
Events Schedule
Mark your calendar!

2020 Fall/Winter dates:

Fall Boardsmanship Academy
September 19-20
Maintenance Conference
October 7-8 
AASB Annual Conference 
November 5-8 
Executive Administrative Assistants Training 
December 10-11 
School Law & Equity Academy 
December 11-12

Winter/Spring 2021 dates:

District Dispatches
Ingenious Graduations
Districts devise creative social distancing ceremonies to honor graduates.
Lessons From Pandemic Prepare Graduates For Future
Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK, Bethel
Resiliency and overcoming obstacles on the way to adulthood are common themes of commencement speeches. This year, those themes took on new meaning when addressed to the region’s 2020 high school graduates.

“You will forever be the class that stood in the space before the COVID-19 pandemic and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and there will be an after,” Kasigluk Akula Advisory School Board Chairman Arnold Bungy Brink Sr. told graduates.
Racquel Slim rides in the BRHS graduation parade on May 16, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.
Photo: Katie Basile
“You will make ‘after’ a reality,” Kasigluk Akula Principal Kim Sweet said, delivering a commencement address with Brink Sr. “You will teach and learn in new ways to live in the world, and you will show the rest of us how to do so successfully.”

Congratulations to Unalaska's Class of 2020!
KUCB Staff
The Unalaska City School District got creative with graduation this year, in order to make a festive day while following social distancing requirements. Diplomas were given out to students in groups of five, followed by a caravan of seniors, and finally a virtual graduation event on Channel 8 TV.

Graduates received diplomas
in groups of five. Photo: KUCB
KYUK Partners With Kuspuk School District To Host Radio Graduations
Gabby Hiestand Salgado, KYUK
With a pandemic looming over the whole world, one of the biggest disappointments came as a blow to the graduating seniors of 2020. Due to social distancing mandates, the classes of 2020 were not able to celebrate their accomplishments with family, friends, and teachers.

KYUK wanted to give each senior the opportunity to hear their name publicy shared over the radio, and the chance to be recognized for their accomplishments. KYUK reached out to the Kuspuk School District to participate in the radio graduations. Congratulations to the Aniak Jr. Sr. High School's and George Morgan Sr. High School’s graduating classes of 2020!

Philip David Nook
George Morgan Sr. High School, Kalskag
Graduation 2020 Call-In Show
Karen Trop, KNOM
This call-in show, to honor all those graduating from high school Western Alaska, was held in conjunction with the Nome-Beltz high school graduation procession on Wednesday, May 20th.

A big thank you goes to everyone who called in, as well as Nome-Beltz High School, Bering Strait School District and KICY. Thank you for partnering with KNOM to celebrate the region’s graduates.

Nome graduates Lisa Okbaok (graduating from Nome-Beltz High School) and Maggie Miller (graduating from Mount Edgecumbe High School). Photo by JoJo Phillips
Western Alaska Celebrates Its Seniors With Parades To Cap Off COVID-19 Semester
Davis Hovey, KNOM, Nome
35 Nome-Beltz High School seniors are set to officially graduate and receive their diplomas. Special accommodations have been made for their graduation ceremony, and for other Class of 2020 graduates across Western Alaska, given the current coronavirus pandemic.

According to Dr. Bobby Bolen, the Superintendent for the Bering Strait School District, BSSD distributed their annual student certificates.
Seniors were driven around town during Nome-Beltz High School’s graduation parade on Wednesday, May 20th.
Photo: JoJo Phillips
At this point, Bolen says pretty much all 15 BSSD schools have done a community parade and some type of high school graduation ceremony, whether virtually by sharing pre-recorded speeches or through social media and Facebook Live.

CHS brings pomp and circumstance online
Zachary Snowdon Smith, The Cordova Times
Since schools closed in March, streaming video has been used to make online classes run quickly and conveniently. On Saturday, May 16, it was also used to build a sense of ceremony and significance for Cordova Jr./Sr. High School’s 100th graduating class. Seniors were able to cross the stage and receive their diplomas in an event broadcast on YouTube, followed by a procession in vehicles down First Street and to the school.
Cordova Jr./Sr. High School graduates toss their caps into the air. (May 16, 2020) Photo courtesy of Milo Burcham
Cordova City Council granted Cordova School District approval to use the school building after viewing plans for the event submitted by the district. Videos of students accepting diplomas onstage were pre-recorded so that the entire class was not required to gather inside the school at one time. The event went well, all things considered, said Superintendent Alex Russin.

Congratulations Class of 2020!
Reprinted from the Viking Saga Newsletter,
Denali Borough School District
From the Principal
School is out for the summer! I don’t know who is more excited, student, teachers, or parents?! I do know that I am grateful for the work and care that everyone has put into these past couple of months of school during distance learning.

I believe we have all learned much more than we had planned before Spring Break. And largely about different things than the curricula had laid out. And, in some cases, the curriculum became more real and personal.
Congratulations to Becki Basile, Laird Dixon, Kenzie Mirasole, Lauren Pluard, Erin Przybylski, Abigail Smith, and Missy Titus. Special thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s graduation ceremony a success. Photo: Tina Graham
I saw field guides from students’ own yards. I heard students perform music together online. I saw students sharing things they learned in their own personal lives, beyond the walls of the school and textbooks. There are live presentations to authentic audiences and beautifully displayed projects about relevant topics (I’m looking at you, Algebra II! Using Polynomial regression to guess when the Nenana Tripod will fall? I’ll consult with those students next year!). I saw students outside a lot! Some of the reflections look back at this specific time of learning, but all of them are artifacts of this time.

Be on the lookout for communications during the summer as we reach out for feedback as well as communication about planning for the fall.

Have a great summer!!
Sitka Sentinal
Friday, May 22 was the final day of school in the district. Staff and faculty of Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School waved to students and families as they drove by the school parking lot this morning during a "reverse parade."
Photo: James Poulson
Blatchley Middle School held a Rites of Passage ceremony in the parking lot. Principal Ben White handed out certificates to eighth-graders who will be attending high school in the fall.
Photo: James Poulson
Nenana School Class of 2020
Kris Capps, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
When the coronavirus pandemic began and schools closed, many students at Nenana City School returned to their home villages. Students throughout the state come to Nenana and stay at the Student Living Center while attending high school.

When it came time to graduate, the accomplishment was celebrated in their own home towns. Graduates were asked to share a photo of themselves and staff members turned that into a graduation video.

Graduates line up for Nenana ceremony.
Photo courtesy Darlene Olin-Martin
Four graduates participate in the ceremony.
Photo courtesy Billy Starkweather
Anchorage’s graduating seniors get ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ at a safe social distance
Emily Goodykoontz, Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News
State health mandates have limited gathering sizes and prevented high schools from holding traditional graduations this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the Anchorage School District had to come up with new ways to honor its 2020 graduates.

This week, Anchorage high schools are distributing memorabilia boxes containing a diploma cover, honor cords, certificates, awards, letters of congratulations from teachers and staff and other small gifts.
East High School honor graduate and student body president Nick Chard had his photo taken in front of the school as Principal Sam Spinella looks on Monday, May 18, 2020. Chard will be attending UC Berkeley on a Naval ROTC scholarship and plans to study mechanical engineering. Photo: Bill Roth
In total, 3,202 students are graduating from the Anchorage School District. Seniors, many dressed in graduation gowns and caps, are driving with their families to the city’s high schools to pick up the boxes and take celebratory photos on campus.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” played over a PA system on Tuesday at East High School, principal Sam Spinella stood in front the building and congratulated each student who arrived.

This 80-vehicle car parade drives around Anchorage celebrating high school graduates
Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media
The Class of 2020 continues to find ways to celebrate as traditional graduation ceremonies have had to adapt to health guidelines.

In Anchorage, one local car club led by Julio Fonoti Jr. has started holding car parades for graduates around the city.

“Basically, you’re going to be looking at lowered trucks, lifted trucks with some cool lights, cool brands, cars with loud music, because that’s what we’re really into,” Fonoti said. “Customizing trucks and cars, and putting loud loud systems in it. And just basically, not your average everyday driver.”

The Uso Ryderz 907 car club in Anchorage has been celebrating high school graduates around the city with car parades. “We just do because it’s a good deed,” said President Julio Fonoti Jr. Photo courtesy of Julio Fonoti Jr. Facebook page
Adult Education student succeeds during COVID-19 and a new baby
Alex Bengel, KTVF, Fairbanks
Despite delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, 29-year-old Angelina Porden has earned her General Education Development (GED) from the Adult Education Program (AEP) of the Literacy Council of Alaska. During the process, she also gave birth to a son.

Porden said having a baby on the way helped motivate her in her studies. “If I am not at my best, and I am not at my top of my game, then my son doesn’t have what he needs.”
The Adult Education Program at the Literacy Council of Alaska helps around 200 students a year. Photo: Alex Bengel
Porden’s son Lucian was born on the 18th of March, the day she was scheduled to take her final test. The test was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Porden sees as a blessing in disguise, as she would have had to postpone anyway.

Education Resources
How to Develop Culturally Responsive Teaching for Distance Learning
Amielle Major, KQED
The coronavirus pandemic and school closures across the nation have exposed deep inequities within education: technology access, challenges with communication, lack of support for special education students, to name just a few.
During this crisis, there are still opportunities to provide students with tools to help them be independent learners, according to Zaretta Hammond, author of " Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain."

The classroom is where so much of the focus on learning has been placed, but there are opportunities to develop learning routines at home. This won’t mean sending home the same materials a student would have in class, but thinking about what a student needs in order to have agency over their learning in any situation.

Responding, Recovering, Reinventing: Three Jobs that Matter for School Communities Navigating a COVID World
Transcend Education
Transcend is a national nonprofit organization focused on innovation in school design. We support communities in creating and spreading extraordinary, equitable learning environments.

In the coming weeks and months, school communities will face consequential decisions that will reverberate for decades. We will collectively forge solutions in the interests of expanding opportunity for ALL young people to thrive. School communities will be faced with three core jobs: Responding, Recovering, and Reinventing.

This resource guide is offered to support schools in taking on this work, with particular attention to the task of recovering in ways that orient towards reinventing.

Podcasts: ExtraOrdinary Districts In Extraordinary Times
The Education Trust
With tens of millions of children out of school, educators around the country are looking for answers about the best way to ensure that students don’t lose months — or even years — of learning.
The cruel fact is that there may not be a best way. Even if something works one place, it might not elsewhere. COVID-19 has plunged us into a vast unplanned experiment, and educators must simply scramble as best they can. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to learn from what is being done in this difficult moment.

Karin Chenoweth, host of the popular ExtraOrdinary Districts podcast, interviews expert educators about the problems they face, the solutions they fashion, and how it fits into what they are hearing from other educators around the country. Each of the educators featured are leaders of schools and districts that serve children of color and children from low-income backgrounds and have been high performing or rapidly improving.

Available podcasts include:

Well-Being Resources
Being quarantined at home for extended periods can increase the amount of stressors for families, students, and teachers connecting remotely. Here are resources to help.
Statewide Safety Services

Alaska domestic violence calls increase during COVID-19, fear of isolation rises
Sean Maguire, KTUU
Alaska’s domestic violence crisis lines are seeing a spike in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic and advocates are concerned about the impacts of isolation.
Photo: KTUU
“There are some parts of the state that are experiencing a significant increase in calls,” said Suzi Pearson, the executive director of Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC).

The Anchorage shelter initially saw a dip in crisis calls in March. Pearson says that was likely because victims were hunkered down with their abusers and were unable to call for help. “However, in the month of April, we saw a 31% increase in crisis calls compared to the previous year,” Pearson said.

A jump in crisis calls is being seen across Alaska. The Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault found that calls to hotlines statewide increased by 52% from mid-March until late-April.

NOTE: The Alaska Court System is temporarily allowing people to file for protective orders online, instead of seeing a notary in person to have signatures verified.
Coronavirus Information & Resources
Resources for Parents and Educators with Students at Home

Extensive list of resources to support teachers, parents, and caregivers in delivering instruction and daily activities to students learning remotely at home.
Coronavirus Resources for Districts

Resources for boards, administrators, educators, parents and families. The latest coronavirus info from state and national health organizations.
Alaska Coronavirus Newsfeed

A chronological summary of statewide media coverage of the pandemic's impact on Alaska. Stories span from the state's first case of COVID on March 13, thru the end of the school year.
On-Demand Webinars
AASB webinars for School Boards and Educators on conducting meetings and delivering instruction online, plus these other AASB webinar resources:
Internet Service Providers

Free GCI Internet Upgrades. More Info

ACS Provides Free Pubic Access WiFi at Ten Anchorage and Fairbanks schools, and is looking for other locations in the state. More Information
Special offers for new or upgraded service for the remainder of the school year from ISPs, including ACS , ASTAC , GCI , KPU , MTA , and 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Funding Opportunities
State & Federal Government News
Please Note - Some news outlets may require registration or a paid subscription for link access. Others may grant free access to a limited number of articles before requiring a paid subscription.
Gov. Dunleavy said federal relief would make up for an education veto. School officials say that’s not the case.
Eric Stone, KRBD, Ketchikan
Federal coronavirus relief funds for schools likely won’t make up for the $30 million in education funding vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. That means school districts across the state are trying to figure out how to plug the gaps.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced
$1.3 billion worth of vetoes during
an April 7, 2020 press conference.
Screenshot: Jacob Resneck
State lawmakers added $30 million extra for schools across Alaska in their most recent budget. But Dunleavy erased those funds in a line-item veto. When he announced his decision, he assured Alaskans that those cuts in “unrestricted general funds,” or UGF, would be made up by federal dollars.

But Norm Wooten, head of the Association of Alaska School Boards, said there’s a big question that hasn’t been answered yet. “It’s not completely clear whether supplanting appropriated state funding is allowed under the CARES Act,” he said by phone Friday.

Alaska Legislature ratifies federal virus relief aid plans
Associated Press
The Alaska House and Senate passed bills Tuesday ratifying plans for using more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, one day after reconvening to take up the issue. The measure passed the Senate 19-1, with Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River Republican, dissenting. It passed the House 38-1, with Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla voting no.
The House promptly adjourned.
Screenshot of Gavel Alaska coverage of
the May 19, 2020 House Floor Session
The Senate, which passed its own ratification bill, stayed in session to consider the House version of the measure. Senate Rules Chair John Coghill said he was surprised by the House adjournment. His committee planned to hear the House version Tuesday, and the Senate planned a floor session Wednesday.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the spending plans prompted lawmakers to return to Juneau on Monday.

Gov. Dunleavy: State to offer AK CARES grants to small businesses
The State of Alaska has announced the AK CARES grant program in support of small businesses. In response to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration on March 11, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority have partnered with Credit Union 1 to support small Alaskan businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, through the newly established AK CARES Grant Program.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Photo: KINY
The program was made possible by Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed small business relief allocation of the CARES Act funds that was approved by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee on May 11 and ratified by the Alaska Legislature on May 20.

Read the full text of the state of Alaska’s guidance for phases 3 and 4 of reopening
Anchorage Daily News
The state of Alaska has released its guidance on the next phases of reopening. Starting Friday, May 22, most health mandates become advisories instead, with a few notable exceptions. Below is the full text of the state’s detailed guidance for phases 3 and 4 of its Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan.

2 Page Plan Summary
DEED Commissioner Johnson Discusses Fall School Reopening
During a recent daily press briefing, Governor Dunleavy was joined by DEED Commissioner Michael Johnson and University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen to discuss plans to reopen the state’s K-12 and higher education system for Fall 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Commissioner Johnson explains the matrix DEED has developed to help determine risk levels for Fall school reopening.
Alaska Legislature Prepares for the Possibility of Vote-by-Mail
Austin Baird, Alaska Native News
The House State Affairs Committee held a hearing earlier this week on vote-by-mail elections in response to a provision included in Senate Bill 241 – an Alaska COVID-19 Emergency Relief Bill – that allows the lieutenant governor to conduct elections by mail during the pandemic.
The committee heard testimony from experts from around the country about how governments are using vote-by-mail to enable safe participation in the democratic process.

“As we’ve seen from Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and elsewhere, voting by mail makes voting easier. More people vote. That’s a good thing. And common sense makes clear that voting at home massively reduces unnecessary public health risk relating to COVID,” State Affairs Co-Chair Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) said after the hearing.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor and Division of Elections were invited to testify but declined to appear before the committee.

Representative Kreiss-Tomkins put on record a study by Stanford University which determined that vote-by-mail increases voter turnout but does not increase either political party’s share of votes. The committee also reviewed a committee substitute for HB 150, Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins vote-by-mail bill, which can be viewed here.

The full hearing can be viewed here on Gavel Alaska.

Anchorage School Board weighs 1-day delay to school start due to primary election
Scott Gross, KTVA
The Anchorage School Board is considering pushing back the start date for school this fall, not because of COVID-19, but for the primary election. 

"Our original calendar was supposed to have kids return back to school on Aug. 18," recently named School Board President Elisa Vakalis said. "We are looking at moving that to the 19th because Aug. 18 is primary voting day where everybody will be coming into the schools."

Photo: KTVA
Anchorage property tax bills are higher this year, largely due to state cut in school-debt reimbursement
Aubrey Weiber, Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage property tax bills are out and are higher than last year, in large part due to the transfer of a school bond debt reimbursement burden from the state to local taxpayers.

The bills, sent out on May 15 and arriving in mailboxes late last week, vary based on the service area each taxpayer’s property resides in. The average bill is $1,675 per $100,000 of property.
Homes in the Westpark development on Friday, May 15, 2020 in South Anchorage. Photo: Loren Holmes
The bills went out on time, but this year, the Anchorage Assembly approved a request from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to push back payment deadlines by a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first payment will be due in July instead of June, and the second payment will be due in September instead of August.

The transfer of school bond debt liability will cost $48 per $100,000 of property value.
All told, the average homeowner with a house worth $350,000 will see their property tax bill increase by $168.

Canadian border closure extended until June 21
Henry Leasia, KHNS, Haines
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the Canadian border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

On March 20th the U.S. and Canada mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential traffic for 30 days. That closure was extended in April for another 30 days. During a press conference, Trudeau told reporters that it’s too soon to say if the border closure could extend past June 21st.
Haines is 39 miles south of the
 Canadian Border. Photo: Henry Leasia
Alaskans driving home from the Lower 48 through Canada are exempt from the closure. However, they are required to make the trip without staying in hotels or making stops along the way except for fuel.

According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, border officers ultimately decide whether to allow entry and the purpose of travel is a factor in their decision.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Names 161 Students as 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the 56th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.
The  White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations, and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Alaska's 2020 U.S. Presidential Schols are:
Gavin Block, Palmer - Mat-Su Middle College School
Grace J. Park, Fairbanks - Park Home School

Where things stand with high school sports in all 50 states amid pandemic
Mitch Stephens, maxpreps.com
The National Federation of State High School Associations offered a 16-page guide to help states with the possible reopening of athletics, Here are state-by-state thumbnail updates moving into the coming months.

Alaska Education News
Please Note - Some news outlets may require registration or a paid subscription for link access. Others may grant free access to a limited number of articles before requiring a paid subscription.
UA, K-12 schools preparing for post-virus academic year
Erin McGroarty, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
As Gov. Mike Dunleavy rolls out a plan to reopen the state almost completely, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said the state's only university system will be taking a "more conservative approach" to reopening.

University administrators, joint governance members and leadership officials have crafted a five-step plan for reopening the university with the institution currently sitting in phase A. Onsite operations will increase gradually with each phase, Johnsen explained.

The difficulty remains in the fact that the university system presents all four risk factors that contribute to higher likelihood of virus spread. These include group housing, mass gatherings and groupings in classrooms, travel by students and employees and a younger population that is scientifically more likely to be asymptomatic while having the virus.

A student carries an information packet while taking a tour of campus during the UAF New Admit Day for incoming students Friday morning, June 14 2019.
Photo: Eric Engman
Anchorage School District scales up free, online summer school options
Liz Raines, KTVA
This is the last week of school for students in the Anchorage School District but classes will still be in session online this summer.
Thanks to federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, ASD's superintendent says the district is able to offer more optional summer courses for free, to help students either catch up or work ahead. 

The classes start in June but because they are self-directed and virtual, students can get a jump start on the material right now.

School district asks for feedback on remote learning
Brian Mazurek, Peninsula Clarion
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is asking students, parents and teachers to complete a survey assessing the last few weeks of the spring semester, when all 42 school on the peninsula switched to emergency remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Empty lockers and hallways at Soldotna High School. Photo: Victoria Petersen
The survey was released on May 20 and will be open through May 31, according to a May 20 press release from the school district.

“There are a lot of uncertainties about what the start of school will look like in August,” Clayton Holland, assistant superintendent of instruction, said in the press release. “To help prepare for those uncertainties, the KPBSD has a working group of 20 members that are planning for the start-up of the next school year, and your responses will assist us.”

Schools change grading policies for online learning
Iris Samuels, Kodiak Daily Mirror
The Kodiak Island Borough School District amended spring 2020 grading policies for all grade levels after the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down in March. 

According to school administrators who spoke at the board of education meeting on Monday, the transition to online learning has benefitted some students, particularly those with highly involved parents, while causing difficulties for many others.

School board rescinds controversial book removal
Tim Rockey, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
Since the Mat-Su Borough School Board’s 5-2 vote on April 22 to amend high school English elective curriculum that removed five books and the New York Times Learning Network from the approved reading list, tensions have run high during emotional discussions about the action. On Wednesday, before the school board voted 6-1 to rescind its action, emotions reached a fever pitch.

Dozens of students, educators and residents packed the Mat-Su Borough School district office building parling lot and more than 80 vehicles were present before the school board meeting began.
Photo: Tim Rockey
Eric Pederson Named Alaska's National Distinguished Principal
The Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals is proud to announce our National Distinguished Principal for 2020 is Eric Pederson, Principal of Paul Banks Elementary School in Homer, Alaska. The 2020 National Distinguished Principal Celebration marks the 36th year that the National Association of Elementary School Principals has presented this prestigious award.

Eric Pederson was nominated and selected by his fellow principals through a statewide search process conducted by the Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals.
Eric Pederson, Principal of
Paul Banks Elementary School in Homer
Pederson will travel to Washington DC in October 2020 for two days of activities planned to honor and bring well-deserved recognition to the elementary administrators selected by their respective states.
New principal named at Juneau Community Charter School
KINY News, Juneau
Eston Jennings, Director of School Climate and Culture at Dillingham City Schools, has been selected as the new principal at Juneau Community Charter School. Jennings has 15 years of experience as a teacher.

She previously worked as an instructional coach, administrator in special education, a special education teacher and coordinator, and an elementary and middle school gifted teacher in Georgia. Jennings replaces Caron Smith who is retiring this year.

Juneau School District Office
Photo: KINY
Under public pressure, Sitka district scales back plan to relocate school principals
Robert Woolsey, KCAW, Sitka
A plan to reposition three of Sitka’s school principals has been scaled back after intense public pressure. Sitka High School’s principal, however, will be returning to her former job as assistant principal at the middle school. And in the district office, the co-assistant superintendents are leaving their jobs.

Note: Read detailed responses to public concerns over the repositioning of Sitka’s school principals from Superintendent Mary Wegner and School Board President Elias Erickson.

After the public fallout, only Sitka High’s principal, Laura Rogers, will change buildings. She’s been asked to return to her former job as assistant principal at Blatchley Middle School. All district principals were sent contracts for next year last Friday, May 15. Photo: Karla James
LKSD Fills Administrative Positions With Familiar Faces
Greg Kim, KYUK
There are at least four changes in the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s top administrative positions in Bethel for the next school year, but they’re all familiar faces. Current Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Hankins’ promotion to superintendent caused a ripple effect going all the way to the Bethel Regional High School.
Current Director of Operations Ed Pekar was promoted to Hankins' former position as Assistant Superintendent, with a starting salary of $145,000. Bethel’s current high school principal, Doug Boyer, was promoted into Pekar’s position as director of operations with a starting salary of $138,610. Alicia Miner, current vice principal at Bethel Regional High School, will take over as principal with a salary of $118,636.

Superintendent Dan Walker, who will be retiring at the end of this school year, said that the Bethel Advisory School Board was involved in the selection for the BRHS principal.
Assembly puts nearly $29 million in local funds into the final budget for the Juneau School District
Pablo Arauz Peña, KTOO
The City and Borough of Juneau approved next year’s budget for the district on Monday.
But while city leaders ultimately voted to put more local funding into the school district than they did last year, it’s still getting less money overall.

“The story of education funding in the state of Alaska over the last few years has been one of kicking the can down the road and playing hot potato with the economic bottom line,” said Chris Cairns.
The Juneau School District offices.
KTOO File Photo
He’s an IT specialist with the school district and is also President of the Juneau Education Support Staff Union.

Cairns asked the assembly to approve the district’s request for funding above the state cap; he said the district needs the money. “Make no mistake that without these additional above the cap dispensations cuts, jobs will be cut and students will suffer,” he said.

Borough votes to decrease school district funding
Sarah Lapidus, Kodiak Daily Mirror
The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted to reduce the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s funding request by more than $1 million at a regular meeting on Thursday. 

The school district requested $10,455,244, but an amendment was submitted by Assembly Member Julie Kavanaugh to decrease the amount to $9,390,089.

School year meal program switching to summer mode
Michael S. Lockett, Juneau Empire
A reinvention of the Juneau School District’s school year meal program will end on Friday as the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Meal Service Program begins on Monday, May 25.

“We feel like it’s pretty seamless,” said Adrianne Schwartz, the JSD’s food service manager. “I want to make sure the needs of the children in our community are met in terms of meals. Typically the school district has provided meals for the summer programs that are operating but this year that’s looking a little different.”

While the school year program provides both breakfast and lunch, the summer program operates under different parameters, Schwartz said.
First Student employees and Juneau School District food services supervisor Adrianne Schwartz, left, carry student meals off the bus they’re being distributed from near Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé, March 16, 2020. The school program is ending Friday, but a United States Department of Agriculture program is expected to begin providing lunches Monday. Photo: Michael S. Lockett
“The primary change that I’m aware of is that these summer meals will be providing lunch,” Schwartz said. “They will not be providing breakfast. There will be more hot food.” The lunches will be distributed at four locations, and only require that people show up to collect them, Schwartz said.

School task force to examine fall options
Iris Samuels, Kodiak Daily Mirror
Kodiak Island Borough Superintendent Larry LeDoux announced during a Board of Education meeting on Monday that he will convene a task force to examine possible school reopening plans for the fall.
Options for the fall include a traditional reopening of schools and in-person instruction, a rotating schedule to meet social distancing demands, distance online learning, or a combination of the above.

School buildings in the district have been closed since March 13, the beginning of spring break. When the break ended, students reconvened in online classrooms.
The decision on when and how to reopen schools in the fall will be made at the state level. LeDoux said the district needs to prepare for all scenarios. “Our first hope is that everything will return to normal,” he said. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Here’s how the Anchorage School District will create a plan to restart school this fall
 Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media
Just one week after the school year officially ended, Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop shared how the district is creating a plan for restarting school in the fall. Bishop said she hopes to provide the school board with official recommendations by mid-July, during the Tuesday school board meeting.
Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop gives a presentation to the school board during a virtual meeting live streamed May 26, 2020
Image: YouTube screengrab
“The provisions that are put out by the state department may look similar to those that have been [put] out for businesses where you start small and you grow, or only 50% capacity,” Bishop said. “We don’t know yet, they haven’t been designed, but we want to be very transparent with our community that we’re planning for the new school year given those different scenarios.”

The district is putting together a task force with multiple working groups and a community advisory committee that will present recommendations and updates to the school board throughout the summer, with a goal of presenting a plan several weeks before the start of the school year.

Mat-Su district superintendent outlines what school could look like in the fall
Heather Hintze, KTVA
What will school look like for Alaska kids in the fall? It depends on how the coronavirus is impacting the state.

Outgoing Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Superintendent Monica Goyette, Ph.D., gave an update to school board members at last week’s meeting.
Photo: KTVA
She outlined three scenarios: low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk. Each risk level has a proposed plan of how school would be conducted. Goyette explained that under a high-risk situation, where there was substantial community spread or a confirmed case at a school, students would go back to remote learning at home.

She made it clear it’s up to the state to decide how schools will operate. “It’s not a district decision. We will have scenarios for plans under each of those but we do not make the determination if our community is low, medium or high-risk,” Goyette told school board members.

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