The unusual snowstorm that swept through the Puget Sound region earlier this month will have a lasting impact on the Tahoma School District calendar. The storm wiped out seven full school days and caused two late-start days. District officials are examining ways to make up the lost time, but a final decision won’t come until the School Board meets on Monday, March 4, at the earliest.
The first round of snow led to school closures on Feb. 4 and 5. School started two hours late on Feb. 6 and 7. The second round of snow resulted in five more closures, Feb. 11-15. The snowstorm was so severe that Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency, which allows school districts to apply for waivers of up to five school days that were lost to closures resulting from the storm. Waiving school days is only one element that is under consideration, since school districts are required to provide at least 1,027 hours of instruction per year along with 180 school days. The district provides 1,030.5 hours of instruction, which is 3.5 hours above the state requirement. So, even if the district waives school days, the hours still must equal at least 1,027.
The Feb. 4 snow day will be made up on May 24, which is a makeup day built into the calendar. The other makeup day, on Jan. 28, was used to recover a day that was canceled due to a windstorm on Jan. 7. The remaining lost days and late starts add up to 40 hours (2,400 minutes) that must be recovered.
District officials are considering several options to restore the lost hours. Making up the lost time will require some combination of these options:
Adding days in June;
Canceling some or all remaining early release days;
Making the last day of school a full day instead of a half day;
Adding instructional time to each remaining school day to help meet the state requirement;
Using one or more Saturdays as school days for seniors;
Using part of Spring Break as school days.
Over the course of three meetings that have focused on how to make up instructional time, representatives from administration, teachers, classified staff, PTA/PTO, and members of the Human Resources and Payroll departments examined several scenarios. Because the school calendar is subject to contract bargaining, those ideas will be further explored during labor discussions on Friday between district administrators and bargaining units that represent teachers, classified staff, and principals. Those talks will result in a calendar proposal that will be presented to the School Board for adoption.
In addition to restoring instructional hours, discussion has included how to best accommodate Tahoma High School’s graduation schedule, state assessments, and families and staff who have vacation and travel plans in place for Spring Break and the days immediately following the current last day of school on June 19. Other consideration is being given to the impact on family schedules if the school day is extended as a way to recover instructional time.
Another question is when to begin implementing changes. In order to start recovering instructional time and to reduce the need to extend the end of school further into June, it may be necessary to implement changes as soon as mid-March. Changes will be announced to families and staff immediately after a decision is reached by the School Board, which could happen as soon as March 4 or 5.