Spring, Thanksgiving and winter breaks take hit to make up school days lost to Tacoma strike

Tacoma students will have shorter break time for vacations this year.

Puyallup kids will go to school longer into June.

Such is the fallout of recent teacher strikes that delayed the start of school for students in Tacoma Public Schools and the Puyallup School District.

Tacoma district officials had to find room for seven makeup days throughout the school year after teachers declined to report to their classrooms in a wage dispute. The start of school was delayed three days in Puyallup, where teachers also decided to strike over wages.

In Tacoma, district officials decided to shorten spring break, Thanksgiving break and winter break to make up the lost days instead of tacking them on to the end of the year.

Originally, spring break was scheduled for a whole week, April 1-5. It now will be only three days, starting April 3.

Thanksgiving break is now two days instead of three, with an early release scheduled for Nov. 21. Early-release days count as full school days for the state.

Winter break was originally two weeks, stretching from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4. Students are now scheduled to return to school on Jan. 3.

Two days, Feb. 15 and May 24, originally scheduled as snow makeup days are now school days.

Finding room for the make-up days earlier in the school year is important for student success, said Tacoma district spokesman Dan Voelpel. It helps seniors reach the required minimum number of school days they need in order to graduate and ensures students have enough preparation before state testing, Voelpel said.

“The state gives us a fixed window in the spring where we have to administer all the state-mandated tests, and we wanted to maximize the number of instructional days that teachers have with students before those tests,” he said.

The district announced the changes on its Facebook page and website.

Some parents are not pleased with the new calendar.

“My children will be occupied during traditional holiday times,” said one Facebook commenter. “We did not cause the strike and we will not suffer due to the district’s inability to settle on living wage increases during the months of negotiations prior to school starting.”

Voelpel said students will be excused if they already have family commitments.

“We’ll be flexible with the families and understanding if the they’ve already made plans,” he said.

After the district’s previous strike in 2011, the district didn’t place makeup days earlier in the school year.

“Back then we did not prioritize instruction, and this year we did,” Voelpel said.

The Puyallup School District also altered its 2018-19 school schedule. The three lost days will be made up at the end of the school year, district spokesman Brian Fox said. The last day of school for Puyallup students is now June 21.

In an effort to avoid shortening vacations that may have already been scheduled, Fox said the district decided to leave spring break, winter break and snow days untouched.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison