New school year off and running

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 11:37
  • Eli Moore, age eight, works on his first assignment of the new school year in his third grade classroom taught by Lucy O’Hara at Eagle River Elementary School. Photos by Amy Armstrong for the Star
  • Grace Canterbury, an eighth grade student at Gruening Middle School, colored a puzzle piece with vivid colors during team-building exercises on the first day back to school. The pieces will be put together for a school-wide mural. Photo by Amy Armstrong for the Star
  • Cailee Byers, a Chugiak High School freshman, eats a healthy lunch on the first day of school that includes carrots she grew in her own garden. Photo by Amy Armstrong for the Star
  • Eagle River Elementary School Principal Lisa Losordo-Santo leads the Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Amy Armstrong for the Star

Local students headed back to school Monday morning braving mild rain showers that seemed to enforce fall’s presence long before the calendar indicates such.

Crossing guards posted at elementary schools and parents walking kiddos to school donned umbrellas and rain slickers replaced summer’s warmer attire as children tromped off to their first day of the 2016-17 school year.

Nearly 46,000 students were present at schools on Aug. 22 located across the Anchorage School District. The exact number was 45,842, according to Anchorage School District communications director Heidi Embley.

That number will fluctuate for the next couple of weeks, she said. That number is down 112 students from last year’s first day, Embley said. But, is up from two years ago, she noted.

Enrollment at Birchwood Christian School housed at The Crossing church remained about the same with 160 students in K-12, according to Hope Clark, the school’s registrar.

The Eagle River Christian Academy located at the Kings Way Ministry Center reported 95 students on Mon., Aug. 22, also its first day of classes. That’s down nine students from last year’s start with 104, but Caldwell expects more students to come their way as the school ended in May 2016 with 130 students.

One significant change from last year for the ASD comes in the fact that a larger percentage of its teaching positions are filled as compared to this time last year, Embley said.

Credit for that goes to an aggressive recruitment effort this past spring and summer headed by Susan Schmidt, Chugiak Elementary’s former principal, who now is the district’s executive director for its HR Staffing and Operations Department.

Several local schools also have new principals:

Fire Lake Elementary: Christine Garbe, formerly principal at Williwaw Elementary School.

Homestead Elementary School: Jane Shepherd Stuart, formerly executive director of ASD’s Assessment and Evaluation Department

King Career Center, which is located in Anchorage, but serves juniors and seniors from Chugiak and Eagle River high schools: James Bell, former assistant principal at KCC and CHS.

Mirror Lake Middle School: Alexandra Hagler, former assistant principal at Bartlett High School. Ravenwood Elementary: Kim Bautista, former principal of Susitna Elementary School.

While she did not visit Chugiak-Eagle River schools on the first day back to class, the district’s new superintendent, Deena Paramo, made good on her promise to connect with students by being on site at several schools from the high school to the elementary level on Aug. 22.

In the district’s email newsletter made available on Aug. 18, Paramo told readers, “The Anchorage School Board and I are committed to working together to ensure every student receives an excellent education. The board gave clear direction that we must focus on increasing academic achievement for all of our students. District leadership, school principals and I have had great conversations on how we can best support students as we prepare them for 21st century jobs that may not even exist yet.”

The first day of school for students in kindergarten and first grade is Mon., Aug. 29.

For more back-to-school information, visit the ASD online at

Connect with Amy Armstrong via email at [email protected] or online at

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