When Tacoma teachers staged a seven-day strike in September, students had an extended summer vacation.
Now, they are about to have a winter break shortened by two days and the people and organizations who program winter activities are taking a hit because of that.
Tacoma Public Schools has to make up school days lost during September’s teacher strike.
Normally, students would have a full two weeks off in late December and early January. Now, they are resuming school on Thursday, Jan. 3.
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The impact on non-profits
In a normal year, Tacoma Youth Theatre’s winter camps are popular and a source of revenue for the non-profit. Most of their youth come from the Tacoma Public Schools district.
“We are scheduling our programing around Tacoma Schools’ schedule,” said Maggie Knott, artistic director.
The shortened period was a monkey wrench in the organization’s plans.
“We went back to the drawing board and figured out what we could do,” Knott said. They now have a shortened schedule to match the shortened break.
“I think (Tacoma Public Schools) had other options that would have better served the children,” Knott said.
Seabury School, an independent kindergarten-eighth grade Tacoma school also draws most of the participants for its winter and spring camps from the district. It had to cancel its entire winter programming, said Sandi Wollum, head of school.
“This has been a setback for us for sure,” Wollum said.
The school’s camps were getting an ever-increasing amount of interest from the community, she said.
“We’re trying to grow the number of extension programs for families with these bright kids who are looking for more ways to keep them challenged and excited about learning,” Wollum said.
One of those programs was the “Coding for Girls” class.
“We know there’s a lot of girls out there with an interest in that but might be reluctant to participate in a class with boys,” Wollum said.
In addition to lost opportunities for children, the staff scheduled to run the canceled camps are out of a job.
“We had to line people up and get them to commit and tie up their break months ago,” Wollum said.
The school remains supportive of Tacoma Public Schools, she said.
“It’s an unfortunate side effect of the strike,” she said.
Tacoma Public Schools said the new calendar is in the best interest of the students.
“We had seven days we needed to make up so we squeezed them in when we could,” said spokesman Dan Voelpel.
State testing begins in early 2019 so the district wanted to make up for lost days sooner rather than later, he said.
“We wanted to have as much class time with the students as possible,” Voelpel said.
Two days were also removed from the spring break, he said.
“We do apologize for any of the inconveniences that families have felt since the work stoppage in September and for the revised calendar,” he said.
The district itself doesn’t program activities during winter and spring breaks.
Skateboarding camp canceled
Alchemy Skateboarding is likewise canceling its winter programs.
While the main reason was lack of funding, the shortened Tacoma Schools winter break was the final blow, said Taylor Woodruff, executive director.
The non-profit fosters learning and growth through skateboarding and runs Pierce County’s only indoor skate park.
It normally would schedule three-day skate camps during the break for youth aged 6-12 to learn the basics of skate boarding. The camps are taught by high school-aged youth.
“One of the valuable things about these camps is that these young adults find themselves in a role model position where the younger generation is looking up to them,” Woodruff said.
The facility will still maintain its open hours during the break.
Parks and zoo face reduced schedules
During the teacher’s strike, Metro Parks Tacoma provided camps for just under 1,400 kids over seven days at no charge.
Now, some of its scheduled camps are suffering.
Some camps put on by Metro Parks are still on schedule while others have been canceled, said spokesman Michael Thompson.
Winter break day camps at the Center for Norpoint and the STAR Center scheduled for Dec. 26-28 and Jan. 2 are on as scheduled. But camps scheduled for Jan. 3 and 4 were canceled due to low enrollment, Thompson said.
Camps at Bricks 4 Kids scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 4 have also been canceled due to low enrollment.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium shortened its camp schedule as well.
Tacoma Public Schools kindergarteners through fifth-graders will still be able to attend zoo camps on Jan. 2. Other area students can attend camps on Jan. 3 and 4.
Those camps include “What’s for Dinner” where participants can watch animals at feeding time and “Friends with Fur” where kids get to meet the hairiest residents of the zoo.