School closures persist among staff shortages

Exterior of Nome Beltz high school.

On the days leading up to the 2022 spring break, school was closed. The reason? Lack of staff.

It wasn’t the first time in the school year a local school had to close. As of the beginning of April, Nome-Beltz Junior and Senior High School had nine unscheduled closures during the 2021–2022 school year. Anvil City Science Academy had eight and Nome Elementary School had 14.

Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess said that between quarantines and unusually severe weather, short staffing has been a struggle. While support staff can help cover classes whenever teachers are absent for any reason, many of those support positions are currently vacant.

“We’ve had challenges like we’ve never seen before this year,” Burgess said.

It has sparked debate over the efficacy over distance learning, as take-home “blizzard bags” with assignments have taken the place of classroom learning.

The school is currently hiring more local substitute teachers and offering financial bonuses to anyone who offers to substitute teach for 20 days in total. Burgess and teachers hope that community members will respond and help keep schools open.

Image at top: Nome-Beltz High School. Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM.