Rural Alaska district buys hotel in Anchorage so students can attend college classes

March 18, 2019
Students from the Lower Yukon district will be able to attend courses in partnership with the Anchorage school system.

A rural district in Alaska has bought a hotel in Anchorage so its older students can attend technical and college classes in the city and get opportunities they don’t have back home.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the Lower Yukon School District has paid $2.7 million for the hotel with the hope of improving its students' low graduation rates.

The program will enable junior and senior high school students from 10 villages in the district to stay nine weeks at a time — about a quarter of a school year — at the former Long House Alaskan Hotel. 

Among the benefits, students can take medical, electrical, aviation, hospitality and other courses at King Tech High School in Anchorage in a partnership with the Anchorage School District. The program is expected to start next fall.

Anchorage will extend its day at King Tech with funding from the rural district. Rural and Anchorage students will attend the additional courses, says Deena Bishop, Anchorage superintendent.

Bishop and Andrew “Hannibal” Anderson, Lower Yukon superintendent, say the program could be a model for other districts.

Anderson says buying the 54-room hotel is a cost-effective way to provide high-quality education without having to establish a program in a remote region that would struggle to attract and keep specialized instructors.

Edgar Hoelscher, Lower Yukon school board chair and a resident of coastal Hooper Bay, says students will benefit from learning about urban life. They can earn credit for high school and post-high school vocational programs or college, and take courses at the University of Alaska Anchorage through the Anchorage district's “middle college” program.

Separate buildings at the hotel will provide boys and girls facilities. A third building will house a learning lab where students will take distance-learning classes. They’ll also meet prospective employers in Anchorage.

Students who take career technical courses are more likely to graduate than their counterparts, Anderson says.

Just 2 percent of Lower Yukon School District students read at proficient levels, as measured by state standardized testing, he says. About four in 10 don’t graduate high school in four years.

MORE: YouTube video from the Lower Yukon School District:

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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