Eastside schools contemplate strategies for days lost to snow

Northshore School District will apply for a waiver from the state.

The recent series of Puget Sound snow storms brought life for Eastside residents to a standstill. Local businesses closed, grocery store shelves were bare and thousands of Eastside students were kept from school for longer than a week.

Questions have circulated on how Eastside schools are going to make up for all the missed school days. Many schools have one to five snow days built into their academic calendar.

Lake Washington School District (LWSD) and Issaquah School District (ISD) have one built-in make-up day, Bellevue School District (BSD) has two, Mercer Island School District (MISD) has three, and Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) has five.

Other school districts, including Northshore School District (NSD), do not have designated built in make-up days but add the missed days at the end of the school year.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for the Washington snowstorms on Feb. 8, when the brunt of the snowstorms were forecasted.

The majority of Eastside schools were closed for five days, as well as two-hour late starts and early releases. However, ISD, SVSD, and NSD missed six or seven full days of school. By Washington State law, all school districts are mandated to have an average of 1,027 hours of instruction for students.

Parents of various school districts suggested canceling mid-winter breaks, which, for most districts, were scheduled from Feb. 14-18, or Feb. 19-22. Due to teacher negotiated contracts, which set the yearly district calendars, school districts cannot cancel or alter pre-set school breaks.

“As the winter break is previously scheduled a year in advance, it was not possible to cancel the vacation days as many families and staff have made plans,” Dr. Michelle Reid, NSD superintendent, said in a statement.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said school districts have the opportunity to apply to waive days that were missed while the state of emergency was in effect. Even if school districts are granted a waiver, they are required to meet the average total instructional hour offerings.

“Most districts have a daily schedule that more than ensures they meet 1,027 hours even if they reduce their total days by two or three. When that can’t be achieved, districts will continue to meet their required hours by eliminating release days, adding days to the end of the year, or by any other means legally provided to local school boards,” Reykdal said in a statement.

As of Feb. 22, Eastside school districts have not announced official plans of how additional snow days will be made up.

For ISD, the district will explore “waivers and other options” to reduce additional days at the end of the school year.

“Per the current negotiated calendar approved by our staff and school board, we will be adding days to the end of the school year,” according to an ISD statement. “We will also explore waivers and other options to attempt to reduce the number of added days at the end of the school year.”

Reid said the district is developing strategies to make up the lost school days to minimize “extending the school year unreasonably,” but it is likely make-up days will be scheduled following the scheduled last day of school.

NSD announced it will apply for a waiver.

“We will be convening to address the State waiver process and we will be looking at our Wednesday early release days, and other possibilities,” Reid said in a statement. “Even with a waiver for days, we will still be required, and fully expect, to endeavor to maintain the educational contact time for teaching and learning. The waiver simply allows us to use our instructional time differently than simply adding more days at the end of the year….We will work hard to find alternative and authentic ways to make up the time lost that will not be problematic at the end of the year for families with plans in June.”

The Reporter will add more information to the story online as school districts announce formal plans to address school days missed to snow.

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