13 January 2007

And There Was Much Rejoicing

It's been a wacky winter in western Washington. Actually, our problems started a month before the official beginning of winter, when we accumulated not only snow, but three days of school to make up. Add on another right before Winter Break due to windstorm...then another this week due to snow and ice. That's five days and our calendar only allows for two.

In several other states, a school year is defined not by actual days, but instructional minutes. Most places do convert this to a typical 180 day school year, but by adding even 5 minutes per day, a district can add nearly a week of instructional time over the course of the year. The upside to this is that if you have to close due to weather, you can still meet the state requirements without actually putting another day on the school calendar. Not so in Washington. They're serious about the 180 day thing, no matter how many minutes you say a day equals.

We can't tack all 5 of our make-up days (and who knows...there may be more yet to come) at the end of the year. Why not? Graduation. Seniors can be out no more than 5 days before everyone else. If we add more than the two already built in, then graduation dates have to be moved...and who is going to do that now that invitations are printed and the space is booked?

All may not be lost, however. As it turns out, we may not have to make up any snow days. "Any school district that canceled classes on the day or days after Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a state of emergency may not have to make up those days." Woot! This won't account for all of our days, mind you, but it may take care of a few. We already get out so late here (end of June), that I'm not looking forward to a school calendar where the July 4th holiday has to be taken into account, although I did hear from an elementary teacher that perhaps this was the year she could finally put up a bulletin board for that holiday.

What will our district do? Will we ask for a waiver from the state? Will we start working on Saturdays? Lose the remaining three-day weekends that we have? I don't know at this point. But there's some joy in Mudville just knowing that we may get a pass.

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