Education

Will all those snow days cut short summer vacation?

Snow day equals work or play

A snow day for many Tri-Citians became time spent clearing it or playing outdoors in the snow deposited by recent winter storms.
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A snow day for many Tri-Citians became time spent clearing it or playing outdoors in the snow deposited by recent winter storms.

This week’s snowstorms could wreck the start of some summer vacations.

Tri-City students spent their fifth day out of classes Friday after districts closed schools yet again because of snow and icy conditions.

But school administrators didn’t plan for that many bad weather days in their annual calendar.

Kennewick and Pasco schools have two snow days built into their schedule — May 24 and June 13. Richland has a third day, June 12, on its calendar.

What will happen is still up for discussion. The snow has kept many administrators at home and led to canceled board meetings.

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Friends Garrett Huff, 10, pushes the sled as Zoe Call, 7, and Eli Warnick, 5, ride on it on Tuesday in Richland after classes were canceled by the weather. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

With the chance of more inclement weather, districts are waiting until they have a good count for the total number of days they will need to make up.

Since Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Feb. 8 with the looming prospect of the incoming winter storms. That opened the door for schools to apply for a waiver to the requirement that students spend 180 days in class.

Students need 1,027 class hours

Inslee’s declaration means students don’t need to make up a minimum number of days in order for the districts to apply for the waiver, explained Katy Payne with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

However, students still need to spend an average of 1,027 hours in class each school year, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal said in a news release.

“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,” he said. “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.”

There is also no word on how the missed days might affect graduations.

Seniors need to spend 175 days in class during their last year. Area districts take advantage of that gap by scheduling their graduation for the week before other school classes finish.

Local districts can make their own decisions about graduation, but, Reykdal said, districts don’t usually move graduation dates.

2016-17 graduation delays

However, during the 2016-17 school year when Tri-City schools closed for 9 to 10 days for snow, districts were faced with that same dilemma.

Pasco, Richland and Kennewick were able to waive five of those days. The three Tri-City districts kept graduations from being pushed back by holding classes on Saturday.

Other districts, such as Finley and Prosser, ended up delaying graduation by a week.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.

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