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Snow days at end of the year

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Taking advantage of the ice on Ellis Pond last week, Benji Deimer, 11, center, takes a shot as Eamann McMillion, 9, defends his goal and John Brondello, 7, at far left, watches the action. The snow and ice have finally melted away this past weekend.  -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Taking advantage of the ice on Ellis Pond last week, Benji Deimer, 11, center, takes a shot as Eamann McMillion, 9, defends his goal and John Brondello, 7, at far left, watches the action. The snow and ice have finally melted away this past weekend.
— image credit:

In a 3-2 vote last week, the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors decided to tack on make-up days at the end of the school year.

Elementary and middle school students are currently scheduled to attend through June 29, and high school students through June 28, to make up days missed due to weather. School may end June 26 if the district can get some make-up days waived by the state.

Seniors are currently also scheduled to attend make-up days at the end of the year, but district administrators have not decided yet whether they can find some way to fit in days before graduation so seniors will not have to return after commencement on June 14, when they will have attended 172 of their required 175 days.

“The seniors might have to come back on the 15th, 18th and 19th, but I would want to state that... those are the days, because there are some other considerations that we might make,” said Gary Plano, associate superintendent of instructional services.

The final factor deciding the actual last day of school remains to be determined. Last week, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction announced that districts could apply for waivers of days missed due to the governor’s emergency declarations last fall when flooding and wind storms wreaked havoc on the region.

According to Superintendent Cyndy Simms, the district is eligible to and will apply for waivers for Dec. 15, 18 and 19. High school students attended school Dec. 19, but younger students did not. With the waivers, school could end as early as June 26 for everyone (except seniors).

“I think we would all prefer to have had an uninterrupted 180-day student calendar,” said Mercer Island Education Association President Mary Lindquist. “I don’t think any of us are happy with the consequences of the storm or wind. Given what we’re dealing with, I’m very pleased that the district is going to go ahead and apply for the waiver.”

The district may need to extend some early release days to get in 1,000 hours this year with the waiver, Plano said. Extending school days does not suffice to make up entire missed days.

One parent, however, said she’d rather see days made up than missed.

“It’s unfortunate but I don’t see any way around it,” said parent Margie Ogawa, the VP of Communications for the PTA at West Mercer. “I’d rather have them go late into the summer than miss the days altogether.”

School board members said they made a quick decision under community pressure for an answer.

District minutes from the meeting say Pat Braman “noted that the board always wants to optimize student learning, and that this solution, unfortunately, does not accomplish that; but parents, students and staff are interested in having this matter resolved quickly.”

Though the district reached a tentative agreement with the teacher’s union on Jan. 5, the school board did not meet again until Jan. 17 community Key Communicators meeting were canceled last Tuesday, the board decided to go ahead and meet.

“We felt it was important that the community know what the plan was because we’ve been asked by each of us often what the game plan was, prior to the additional snow, and we needed to make some decisions to move on so that’s why we decided to hold the meeting,” said Leslie Ferrell, board president.

But the top item on its agenda was not the schedule for the school year. Rather, the board spent hours behind closed doors discussing its PEAK lease agreement, postponing by two hours a scheduled public meeting to vote on make-up days.

When asked why PEAK came first if the board felt pressure to handle the snow days, Ferrell said: “That was always scheduled to come first.”

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