To the editor: Within the Anchorage school district alone, at least 45,000 students have been denied in-person education for a significant period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has had a variety of negative outcomes for students, K-12, such as increased instances of child abuse and food insecurity. COVID-19’s impact on students needs to be addressed.
Alaska has had a series of health mandates that resulted in the closure of public, private and residential schools from March 16, 2020, till the end of the school year. Additionally, due to Health Mandate 011, students were expected to remain in their homes and practice social distancing. Throughout this time, the Legislature has found various issues among students, such as widening achievement gaps, loss of high school credit, and increased emotional and social needs.
Alaska House representatives Andrea Story and Harriet Drummond are sponsoring H.B. 67, “an Act making a special appropriation from the general fund for K-12 public schools to support student recovery from academic losses as a result of COVID-19; and providing for an effective date.” This bill would devote $20 million from the general fund to the Department of Education and Early Development to promote student recovery from academic loss. This is achieved by dispersing the fund through grants given to school districts that are taking action to support this goal.
As a social work student, I have come to understand how beneficial in-person education is to a child’s intellectual, emotional and social development. This is something I have personally experienced through the safe environment teachers provided and afterschool programs that promoted my individuality. The need for policies and actions to address the lingering effects of COVID-19 remains. It is essential to mitigate the negative impact that has been left on student progress and individual development, and adequate funding will help. I am in support of H.B. 67.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has over 13,000 students. At the very least, we should be aware of the challenges our students have continued to encounter due to COVID-19.