While most school districts in the area are making up snow days due to the recent weather conditions by adding extra school days at the end of the year, the Tahoma School District has a different approach.
During a special meeting March 4, the school board voted to make up the lost 40 hours of school time by adding 20 minutes to each school day, extending the last day of school from June 19 to June 20 and canceling early release Fridays. These changes are set to begin the week of March 18.
According to Kevin Patterson, director of communications at the Tahoma School District, the board looked at various options that would work best for everyone.
“The easiest thing would of been just to add days at the end of the school year,” he explained. However, that would have extended classes into the last week of June.
“That’s not something a lot of people would prefer because they have already made plans for vacations and other activities after school’s out — both parents and staff,” Patterson added.
He said this would have created two problems; one being there would be a lot of absent students because their families already had vacation plans and two, there may not be enough teacher coverage because they are already locked into vacations as well.
The board took this idea to staff members, PTA members, human resources, bargaining unit leaders and the payroll department to see what they thought. Patterson said they preferred this scenario the best.
According to Patterson, the district has also received some community feedback as well and most of it has been positive.
The board’s decision also allows the district to request five waiver days from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction due to the fact Gov. Jay Inslee declared five of the snow days as a “state of emergency.”
“The waived days do not affect the (new) schedule. If they’re not waived, then we’re going to have to reboot the whole thing, but the state has already said that any district that applies to the waiver is going to get it because it was a ‘state of emergency,’” Patterson explained.
He continued with, “But there are two things at play here. There are the number of school days per year, which is 180 school days and the number of instructional hours and that’s 1,027. Our concern was ensuring that we met that 1,027 because that part is not waived.”
Patterson said no matter what, the district has to provide that many hours of instruction at a minimum for students and waiving those days does not solve that problem, which is why the district decided to add the extra school day at the end of the year, add 20 minutes to each school day and to eliminate early release Fridays.
By doing all of that, Patterson said in the end, along with the remainder of regular school days, it adds up to 1,027 instructional hours.
According to a district press release, adding 20 minutes to each day will affect pick-up and drop-off times along with bus schedules.
To view the new bell times, go to tahomasd.us/news/announcements/school_board_approves_snow_days_makeup_schedule.
The release also stated the changes approved by the board will not significantly affect the school district’s finances since few additional costs incurred.