OLYMPIA — Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, is encouraging school districts to “cut their losses" by taking summer vacation days now and attending full-time in-person instruction in June, July and August.
“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,” Hawkins said Friday in a news release.
Hawkins is a former Eastmont School Board member and the ranking Republican member on the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. His news release noted he is the father of two public school students.
He is urging school districts to consider swapping their normal one-week spring break with their usual 10-12 week summer break, which would give time for teachers to be vaccinated and COVID-19 cases to drop, so that the remainder of the 180-day school year could be done in-person.
“The state provides districts full flexibility on how they spread their 180 instructional days," Hawkins said. "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."
A midyear school calendar change is not without its challenges, Hawkins acknowledged, 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 more than $700 million for K-12 education assistance.
Districts could use 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, Hawkins said.
“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.