School closure pic

Facing dwindling birth rates, declining student enrollment and a massive $68 million budget gap this year, the Anchorage School District is looking at shuttering six elementary schools.

Schools on the chopping block are Wonder Park, Northwood, Abbot Loop, Klatt, Birchwood and Nunaka Valley.

On Oct. 18, the district held a work session to discuss the proposal, and it came up again during the school board meeting later that night.

Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said the budget shortfall combined with long-term enrollment decline is driving the closures. He told the school board that the district’s student enrollment has dropped from 48,000 in 2013 to just 44,000 in 2022.

Bryantt has thus far failed to acknowledge community dissatisfaction with public schools as a factor in dwindling enrollment.

Bryantt added that declining birth rates in Anchorage, along with smaller cohorts of incoming kindergarteners suggests that “these trends will continue.”

Bryantt also blamed closure proposals on what he claimed was “unstable and insufficient funding for our students.” He is planning to ask lawmakers for more money in the coming legislative session.

A similar situation played out in Fairbanks earlier this year, when the district decided to lay off nearly 70 teachers and shutter several schools.

In September, Bryantt sent a letter to parents explaining that tough cuts might be necessary.

The reality is that many parents have also pulled students from public schools – opting for homeschool and private education after public school educators insisted on masking students throughout the day. Others have departed due to controversy over radical policies that promote leftist notions such as critical race theory and LGBTQ ideology.

Adding to the dissatisfaction is the fact that Anchorage students continue to perform poorly when it comes to mastering basic skills in reading and mathematics.

Bryantt has thus far failed to acknowledge community dissatisfaction with public schools as a factor in dwindling enrollment.

The district’s main funding source comes from the state’s Base Student Allocation (BSA) which is multiplied by the number of students enrolled in a particular district. With fewer students enrolled, there is simply less money to go around.

Closing under capacity schools, however, may not be a bad thing according to the Alaska Policy Forum, which has noted that many of Anchorage’s schools are now operating at less than 80% capacity, and some are approaching 50%.

The final decision on school closures will not be made until December. In the meantime townhall meetings will occur at each of the schools under consideration. These will take place Oct. 26-Nov. 3.

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Anchorage looks to close 6 schools amid enrollment loss & $68M budget gap

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Kasey says:

    I grew up in Anchorage and in the Anchorage school District grade 2-12. For most years, the population surged and many new schools were added…Middle schools sprang up splitting off from a Jr/Sr high combination. For decades after I graduated, parents were clamoring for MORE schools with a better teacher/student ratio. (which it looks like they’ve accomplished given this data) I’ve NEVER seen schools closed…unless one school was rebuilt to replace an old and failing building. Now, they want to close 6! What’s really going on here? Granted, they may have fewer students due to homeschooling or private schools. But I just heard a caller to a local radio talk show who is a teacher. The caller stated that the District is practically swimming in money…but can you guess where that $ is being spent (oops, I mean wasted).

    • Mary says:

      As a retired Alaska teacher, I agree with you totally. Most districts are practically swimming in money as you say. Where does it go? I saw it settling down at the top with administrators getting huge salary increases or “but outs” when they were asked to leave the district. OR the addition on numerous assistants when teachers were the ones needing the assistance. Those that sit in their “ivory towers” need to get out of their office chairs and put in some long hours as most classroom teachers do. Education in Alaska has for generations been too top heavy.

  • Jon and Ruth Ewig says:

    The leftist educators at all levels fail to think in terms of cause and effect or the scientific model in practice. Truth is denied. That is what happens with Marxists thinking and leaving God out of the conversation.

  • Johnny says:

    It appears they went “woke” so now they are going broke. Hopefully a better structure arises out of their ashes.

  • Jody says:

    Well they did it to themselves considering all the garbage they let come in instead of an actual true curriculum along with them letting their political views in the school system!!

  • Whidbey Thedog says:

    Trading away a good education for a $4000 allotment is a deal that many will eventually regret.

    • Anon says:

      Alaska ranks #49 in the country
      What part of that ranking is the “Good Education”

      • Mary says:

        Suggestion:. Research why Alaska is ranked #49. Which districts are scoring low? Which cities are scoring low? Which schools are scoring low? Don’t throw the whole state under the bus without knowing the cause.

  • Mongo Love Candy says:

    Get your kids out of these Demon run hell holes.

  • Dipnet Queen says:

    There is a financial loss and $68M budget loss? Wow! And I wonder how Anne Zink is able to ask for money to cover her “health campaign!” This state has plenty of money to fund education. We must hire true teachers who put the students education first. School is education, teaching kids how to think and use their brains, not brain washing.

    • Kasey says:

      Yup…plenty of $$$. When I grew up in the ASD the big concern was teacher/student ratio. So they should be able to achieve that now. A gal who is a teacher called into a local Anchorage radio program yesterday and said as much. She also stated that there were soooo many vacant positions that needed to be filled so the folks at the closed schools could fill those positions. Huh?? Sounds like waste again…positions more important than teacher??? I doubt it!

  • Steve P Peterson says:

    Will the ASSembly try to turn these schools into “homeless” shelters, I wonder?
    I’m betting that people are vacating public schools and vacating Anchorage as well. Who would want to live in a dysfunctional city with under-performing schools and high taxes to fund it all?

  • Mary Rapp says:

    It’s such a shame. I began teaching in ASD back in the late 70’s when our education system was tops. I left when they began telling me what and how to teach. We would arrive in September to find several new math, writing, spelling etc…etc.. programs for us to add that year. Supposedly we would be explained these new programs at the “inservice days” which were the new thing at the time. That just was not enough time for new programs being stuffed down our throats. Teachers had no input. Most teachers did not complain and the union did nothing so things only got worse. We the educators, who went to school to learn how to teach were now being told what and how to teach. So I left and so did many other teachers. I opened up my own private school and helped many children learn what they were not getting in our schools now. The only thing that has not changed is how they keep asking for more money for education while our state’s education system now ranks at the bottom of the ladder in national test scores, while at the top of the ladder at the cost per capita. I think the only states that may charge more than Alaska is New York and California. Anybody want to guess their failure rate? In additiion, can anyone guess who runs those systems? If you guessed “LIberals”, go to the front of the class.

  • AK Fish says:

    May 2021: The ASD will get over $112 million in additional COVID-19 relief. How will it be spent? “The second portion was just over $50 million. According to Anchorage School Board documents, more than half of that — nearly $29 million — was used to avoid laying off teachers, and the rest went toward laptops and internet for students, sanitation supplies, gloves, masks, summer school opportunities and other district needs. Ratliff said the $12 million must be spent by September 2022; the $50 million has to be used by September 2023.” Apparently, they spent this COVID money (62 million) already and are saying they are 68 million in the hole now? Get the superintendent-in-training on this right away! Layoff notices for the six schools’ teachers, prinicpals, assistant principals, teacher aides, janitors, etc pending? Nah. That would make too much sense.

  • Sharon Turner says:

    Every time ASD well paid, so called Educators pain themselves into a corner, scare tactic of school closures, and how sad for a kid to have to share resources, teachers with more than 16 pupils, or a building needing some repairs. Not their fault, that their lack of management skills didn’t know it was coming? Or the Operations Mgr. who, until days before start of school needed 70+ ** bus drivers. Seriously, folks, these characters get paid 80 to 150 K per years plus a boatload of extras. NOW get ready for a huge plea for your property taxes to be raised for millions in bonds. If anything a grass roots threat back to them about a tax revolt.. seems fair? Our kids do not need one more $. They need two parent homes, involved parents to kick out the lousy ‘administrators’, and take back our kids. grandma

    • Mary says:

      Wow! Well stated! And, lay off administrators before teachers. I would say put the administrators in the classroom, but most of them have never spent a day actually teaching in a classroom little lone a whole year. No experience in education yet they think to tell experienced teachers how to teach!