Icy conditions prompts remote learning day for students in Mat-Su

PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) – It’s a relief for those needing a break from colder temperatures, but warmer weather made for some slick conditions Tuesday morning in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

According to Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Administrative Operations Manager Justin Shelby, crews have been focused on the north end of the Parks Highway where 20 to 24 inches of snow accumulated.

By late Tuesday morning, main roads across Wasilla and Palmer were mostly wet and slushy, but the department is warning drivers to take caution as temperatures are expected to dip back below freezing.

“There’s going to be a lot, a lot of ice potentially all over the place and it’s going to take our sanding crews a while to get around to all those locations,” Shelby said.

In the early morning hours, the Mat-Su Borough School District made the decision to switch to a remote learning day after reports and observations were made by field safety supervisors. This is the 11th day since the 2022-2023 school year started that the district has transitioned one or more schools to remote.

Teachers in the district said transitioning from in-person learning is not ideal, but agree it’s better than alternative problems that stem from missing school completely, something that the Anchorage School District is currently facing.

“Where it’s nice to have the snow day where you don’t have any responsibility, having the remote day is beneficial because we don’t have to extend our school day or our school year, which can be a stress for parents and teachers, Butte Elementary School Teacher Lori Abney said.

Anastasia Anisimova also teaches at Butte Elementary and said that Mat-Su teachers have grown accustomed to last-minute remote learning adjustments, and that the district has done a lot to provide families with the tools they need to do it successfully.

Abney and Anisimova said that while it is a struggle to educate students virtually, both agree that they prefer to go remote over having to make up the days at the end of the year.

“There are some studies that show that kids actually don’t learn that well at the end of the school year,” Anisimova said. “The thought behind remote learning is that they’re actually doing something now — you know, however much it is — they’re actually still involved in school, versus extending that year when they really aren’t wanting to be in school anymore. ”

On Monday, the Anchorage School Board voted to approve 2022-2023 calendar adjustments to make up for the seven days it missed due to weather events.

While some Valley teachers agree that remote learning is a good alternative to missing school completely, they do believe there’s still some room for improvement as not every student is able to participate due to circumstances or lack of resources.

“The question for the community has to be how do we make it more accessible for those kids that not able to attend — whether it’s because of internet or because of parent availability — how do we make it so that everybody can attend and not possibly increase that learning gap,” Anisimova said.

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