Education is important.
Maybe that’s what makes the myriad of options offered through the Anchorage School District (ASD) a blessing but also daunting. ASD boasts nearly 100 schools from pre-K through high school and has programs to accommodate many needs of its students. As a full-time substitute teacher last semester who worked at all levels of education across the ASD, this author can attest to the variety of teaching philosophies offered in this district.
The ASD offers open enrollment, which allows students to attend any school in the district without being restricted to a neighborhood school zone. Because of this, the sheer size and complexity of the system can be overwhelming. What are the different educational options ASD offers and what are their pros and cons? To assist families with this decision, ASD schools host tours throughout the month of February, during Visit Our Schools month.
There are too many great programs and options with the ASD to discuss them all here, but here are some basics to get you started. Please also visit http://asdk12.org and click on “schools” for more information.
Commonly considered “public schools”, these schools provide many great opportunities for students whose parents want their children to learn using a standardized curriculum and easy access to the programs that all ASD schools offer.
You must request a zone exemption through the ASD lottery system to attend outside your zone. Zone exemptions are granted on a space available basis.
“School within a school”
You might have heard the term “school within a school”. What does it mean? Many of our neighborhood school buildings host preschools, alternative programs, and language immersion programs as well as specialized, targeted education for those with special needs ranging from training in basic life skills to programs for the highly gifted.
School within a school programs are filled through the ASD lottery system or by qualification.
Parents looking for specific teaching methods or curriculum should consider charter schools. As institutions, charter schools are public schools governed by an elected board called an Academic Policy Committee. These committees make policy and curriculum recommendations and decisions. Charter schools operate with significant independence while enjoying the benefits of being public schools.
Charter schools encompass a number of different programs and approaches to education, including correspondence schools/homeschool programs, cultural and language schools, and STEM-based schools.
Charter schools use the ASD lottery system to fill seats.
Some parents prefer to teach their own children because of the schedule and curriculum flexibility. While usually considered an isolated schooling option, homeschooled students can enjoy many of the same opportunities of those in other education systems like sports.
Homeschooled students can work alongside charter schools to design individual learning plans for their students. These charter schools form a bridge between formal education and home-school students and allow students to reap the benefits of both systems.
World Language Programs
If learning a specific language and culture is important to you, consider enrolling your student in a school with a language immersion program. These programs can be found in both neighborhood schools, in which students must also complete a standard curriculum, and charter schools. ASD has schools specializing in Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and German immersion programs. For a complete list of what immersion programs are offered at each school, search the ASD website at https://www.asdk12.org/Page/6702
World Languages Programs are filled using the ASD lottery system.
ASD has a number of “ABC” or Anchorage Basic Curriculum schools. These schools focus on providing a back-to-basics approach. With that being the case, they focus heavily on character, citizenship, values, discipline and patriotism.
ABC schools are filled using the ASD lottery system
Montessori, Waldorf and Open Optional Programs
These programs use curriculum and teaching methods that focus on multi-age classrooms and whole child learning.
Montessori, Waldorf and Open Optional schools are filled using the ASD lottery system.
Though not a replacement for classroom instruction, through ASD’s iSchool’s online classes students have access to courses that might not be available at their school. This allows students to overcome scheduling conflicts and to meet student needs. Students cannot take online classes if they are attempting to retake a course, but it remains a good option for students who are self-motivated and can perform work semi-autonomously.
If you want your child to participate in a “school within a school” alternative program, a charter school, or a world language program, you must apply through the ASD lottery system. If you would like your child to attend a neighborhood school that is outside of your zone, you must complete the Attendance Zone Exemption Application process and submit it to the ASD. You can find the lottery application by visiting http://asdk12.org and clicking on “Families.” Two lotteries take place each year: during the last week of March and week before registration in the fall.
For those who want a very specific approach to education and with minimum oversight from the ASD, then the private school route might be a great option. The majority of private schools in the Anchorage area are religiously affiliated and thus have a more faith-based approach to education. Students enrolled in private schools can still participate in sports and programs from other schools.
Regardless of what schooling option you decide is best for your student, there is a high chance that there is a school nearby that will fit his/her needs. Picking an educational path is one that takes a great deal of meticulous research that informs good decisions. Use this article as a launching point into your research. Happy studying!
Jamin Goecker is a local realtor who loves doing all things Alaska. When he isn’t visiting with family and friends or enjoying the outdoors, he can be found writing fiction. Jaminwrites@gmail.com