Military high alert closes classes

Audrey Foster missed all three of her classes Tuesday through Thursday last week. Her education was interrupted while the Anchorage community struggles to deal with the effects of the Sept. 11 attack on America.

Foster is one of many University of Alaska Anchorage students whose classes were canceled last week. They are students who take classes at Anchorage's military installations: Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson Army Post.

“Personally, I am a little stressed,” Foster said Friday. “What are we going to do altogether?”

Foster works full time and takes night classes on Elmendorf. Foster wondered about how her classes are going to be made up and when. She has a tight schedule and worries about possible time changes. If that happens, she says she may have to drop some courses.

“What's the future of my classes?” she said.

Foster says students typically obtain special passes to get through the military gates. She also explained that most of her classes have mostly military personnel attending and other students with military ties.

Foster says she called the Elmendorf education department last Tuesday morning after learning of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast. She knew there would be a closure. She has experienced delays and tighter security before when the base had a military exercise, so she knew what to expect.

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Administration in the Elmendorf education department has told Foster to take it day by day. She will keep checking the administration's recording for updates.

Her biggest concern is her math class. This skills class has a tight syllabus. Foster thinks that either make-up days are needed or the instructors are going to have to possibly cut out a chapter, for example.

“Where is that time going to be found?” she said.

James Chapman, UAA's new provost, says he understands the need to answer the questions students like Foster are asking.

“We have their interest at heart,” he said.

Chapman says that if the situation called for class cancellations for only a day or two, then there would not be a big problem. He said that their real concern was exactly how much longer the closures would last.

“If it goes on for an extended period of time, we will need to work out a plan to make sure students get what they paid for,” Chapman said.

He says the university is looking into how they can work with the military to assist those individuals who might have their whole futures changed.

“This is such a traumatic thing,” he said.

Chapman is currently looking into the issue of what is next for the classes on hold and what the future is for classes on base. He spent part of Friday tracking down military contacts to grasp the state of affairs.

Chapman says he is doubtful that there is any university policy for such a specific matter, but confident they will find an option that will allow students to continue their education.

“We need to be flexible and responsive,” he said.

He stresses that the future is unknown and that they may need to look at different solutions.

“If we can't use the bases anymore, we'll have to find alternative sites for the classes,” Chapman said.

Many students went into the weekend not knowing if their classes will be moved, re-scheduled or if they would ever be able to go back again.

“We're still closed because of the heightened security precautions,” a recording from the Air Force Education Department said on Friday.

Master Sgt. Jon Scudder, Elmendorf public affairs spokesperson, says the military is still dealing with security issues on a day-to-day basis. Scudder says students have to contact their individual instructors for specific class questions. There has been no official day reported when classes will resume on Anchorage's military installations.

“There is no estimated time as it stands right now,” Scudder said Friday.