Washington lawmaker: ‘Now is the time’ to consider doing away with summer break

Feb 23, 2021, 5:28 AM
Year round school, northshore...
Bothell High School. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

With the pandemic continuing to cause difficulties for students, one Washington lawmaker thinks now is the perfect time to consider a year-round school calendar.

WA Superintendent: Vaccines should be ‘backstop,’ not requirement

State Sen. Brad Hawkins (R-East Wenatchee) is sponsoring SB 5147, which would have a small handful of schools explore the possibility of spreading out the year’s 180 days of instruction over 12 months, eschewing with a typical summer break between June and August.

In practice, the bill would have the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, select up to 30 school districts to try out the year-round model for three years. It would also mandate that participating schools have at least half of their enrolled students be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Participating schools would be picked on a “first-come, first served basis.”

While it may seem extreme, Hawkins believes that interruptions to schooling brought by the pandemic show just why it may be more necessary now than ever. In the short term, he sees that playing out in the form of a “break swap” in 2021, where K-11 students could take their 12-week summer break during the spring, buying time for teachers to get vaccinated and COVID cases to trend further downward.

“Universally, what we’re hearing from school district officials and educational advocates is that in-building instruction is the ideal choice,” Sen. Hawkins told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “If that’s the case, let’s not burn up all of the 180 state-funded school days this early on in the school year.”

WA Superintendent Reykdal unveils plan to vaccinate state’s teachers

That specific idea isn’t included in his current legislation, which wouldn’t begin testing out the year-round model until the start of the 2022-2023 school year. But Hawkins also argues that the pandemic should have state leaders rethinking how they approach the school calendar, and that districts should consider enacting a “break swap” on their own regardless.

“Because of COVID, I think now is the time to think differently, not only in the longer term to address learning recovery, but also potentially this year by swapping the breaks,” he noted.

Hawkins’ bill has been approved in both the state Senate’s Education and Ways and Means committees, and will soon move forward for a full vote.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Washington lawmaker: ‘Now is the time’ to consider doing away with summer break