It has been a difficult year for students, parents, and school officials. With a limited percentage of Washington school districts offering in-person instruction and very few districts, if any, back to their usual operations, 12th District state Sen. Brad Hawkins is urging districts to think differently about how to maximize their 180 state-funded school days for the remainder of the school year.
“I am a big proponent of reimagining the school calendar in the long term, especially as our state prepares to pull out of this pandemic, but this year is unique and also presents an opportunity for us to think differently,” said Hawkins, a former school board member, father of two public school students, and the ranking Republican member on the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
Hawkins is urging the state’s 295 school districts to consider swapping their normal one-week spring break with their usual 10-12-week summer break and then resuming the remainder of their 180 school days throughout the summer, in-person, to prepare for the 2021-22 school year. By doing this, Hawkins says, school staff will be vaccinated, COVID rates will likely be down, and all districts could offer full in-person instruction. Also, the districts will have had plenty of time to prepare for the summer instruction, with the extended spring break.
Hawkins added, “The state provides districts full flexibility on how they spread their 180 instructional days. Most school districts would agree that in-person instruction is ideal. With the state taking so long for school employee vaccinations and few districts seemingly eager to resume their full operations, it makes sense to me to cut those losses, swap those breaks, and move ahead.”
Hawkins acknowledges that a mid-year school calendar change is not without its challenges, including gaining support from unions and local bargaining groups. The Legislature just approved House Bill 1368, which allocates $2.2 million in COVID relief, including over $700 million for K-12 education assistance.
“Districts can utilize some of those dollars or savings from other areas of their operations during the pandemic to negotiate a one-time fix for the summer schedule,” said Hawkins.
“We definitely can’t have the teachers’ union or some districts resisting the reopening of schools because they are so fundamental to our communities and families. We all need to work together to make sure all students receive the education they deserve. I’m proposing another option to help do this,” added Hawkins.
Hawkins concluded, “We need to figure out something. Our students and families deserve it.”