When the news of Summit Denali’s closure was announced to me it was immediately met with indifference. I had no reason to feel sad or stressed as I was going to graduate this year. It was only a month later that I fully understood the scope and effects of the school’s closure on underclassmen and faculty.
In early January of 2023, Summit Denali announced that both its middle and high school campuses would be shutting down in June. This news came as a shock to both students and faculty and has left many unsure of their futures and frustrated at how the announcement was handled.
The main key factors contributing to the shutdown are poor enrollment and a lack of funding. Denali’s flow of students has dwindled in recent years, decreasing its perceived usefulness as a school to the Summit network. At the same time, many of the avenues Denali gained income have been ripped away, preventing the school from maintaining a sustainable profit.
For example, Laura Zado, the executive director of Summit Denali High School stated that funds from the SB740 grant used to keep the campuses open were no longer in effect. She said, “We have been taking advantage of that to help pay for our facilities, but because the local elementary schools have a smaller percentage of low-income families we no longer qualify for that.”
With the school’s shutdown, there has come frustration among students and faculty at how it has been handled, especially in regard to when it was announced. Summit Denali Junior Kai Wilson Took issue with how late the news of Denali’s closure was given to students, stating, “It could have been communicated from the staff to the students a lot sooner, or even from the board to the staff.”
Maxine Cheney, an education specialist at Summit, concurred with this, stating that the time at which the closure was announced robbed her and other members of Denali’s faculty of needed preparation. She stated, “I wish I knew at the beginning of the year so we could have prepared you all and also been more prepared ourselves for the possible closure.”
One of the most important issues Denali faces with its closure is making sure that students and faculty can find schools. Laura Zado stated that the school has worked to make sure faculty could obtain jobs at other schools in the Summit network. She said, “The first thing that we did was I made sure all faculty were aware and trained on the transfer process to work at another Summit school if they were interested in doing that.”
Zado also said that other Summit schools always accepted students transferring from Denali, stating, “I am happy to say that any student who applied to transfer to one of the Summit schools, and that was mostly Tahoma, Prep, or Everest, everyone got a spot.”
Maxine Cheney claimed that the delayed announcement of Denali’s closure has significantly limited her ability to create a plan to remain employed, stating “I have no idea where I’m going. For right now all I know is in June there is a chance I’ll be unemployed. No teacher had time to plan.”
The shutdown of Denali has brought sadness and stress to many and has cornered many into saying goodbye to their community in the next few months. When asked how he felt about Denali’s closure Kai Wilson stated, “Overall I feel like we are just trying to get through it, and we are going to try to make the most of it.”