Teacher Strike and 5 Snow Days-Now What?

**Update 3/11/19**

I put this update at the start since it seems we have at least somewhat of a resolution on the missed days.  See below for original post and previous updates.


Friday in the weekly District email the following was announced:

“Weather Make-Up Days Update: Thank you to all 2,540 who participated in the on-line survey giving your input regarding the make-up time for snow closure days. The results of the survey are as follows (#1 received the most votes, #5 received the least votes):

           #1 – Decrease the number of ACT early release Fridays

           #2 – No half-day early release for the last day of school

           #3 – Lengthen the school day by a few minutes each day

           #4 – Shorten Spring Break

           #5 – Saturday School for graduation seniors only

Our waiver application is prepared and requires School Board approval which will be considered at the March 14th Board meeting. After evaluating the hours needed to make up the lost instructional time, we found that we can recoup the time solely from ACT Fridays. In anticipation of the waiver being approved, we are cancelling ACT early release for Friday March 15th and March 22nd while we wait for a decision from OSPI. If the waiver is approved, we will then cancel the remaining ACT days that are scheduled for the 2018-19 school year.

As it stands, if the waiver is approved (and no more days are cancelled due to weather, power outages, etc.), the last day of school will be June 24th and will be a half-day early release for students.

The district is working with our employee groups to identify appropriate ways to make up lost staff time. We will keep you updated when we receive the waiver decision. “

If anything changes on March 14th at the Board Meeting, I will update again.

**End update**

Tumwater School District got off to a later start than usual this year. Adjustments were made to Christmas break, Presidents weekend break and the end of school year to accommodate the lost instructional days originally scheduled in September.  Fast forward to February and we are hit with a giant snow storm.  The storm was more than this area typically is used to, prompting the Governor to declare a State of Emergency.  So, what does that mean to us?

Chris Reykdahl , OSPI Superintendent, released a statement explaining that because of the Governors Declaration, the school districts were allowed to apply for a waiver for those missed days of instruction. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAOSPI/bulletins/22f2490  Mr. Reykdal stated, “State law allows the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to waive missed school days, and school districts will have the opportunity to apply to waive days that were missed while the state of emergency was in effect. However, there is no legal authority to waive the mandatory average of 1,027 hours of instruction for students.”  So what exactly does that mean?  In looking up the statute that makes this requirement, this is an average.  The requirement is actually 1080 hours for grades 9-12 and 1000 for grades 1-8,  https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.150.220  . This brings up the question, what exactly is an instructional hour?  As defined by the Washington State Law:

“Instructional hours” means those hours students are provided the opportunity to engage in educational activity planned by and under the direction of school district staff, as directed by the administration and board of directors of the district, inclusive of intermissions for class changes, recess, and teacher/parent-guardian conferences that are planned and scheduled by the district for the purpose of discussing students’ educational needs or progress, and exclusive of time actually spent for meals. – RCW 28A.150.205 https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.150.205

Specifically meals are excluded, so a regular day of school is 6.5 hours long, taking lunch out leaves 6 hours each day.  So at 6 hours a day for 180 days is 1080.  I don’t know how the ACT days (1.25 hours less for 4.75 total hours), late starts (usually 2 hours), early release days and half days (not including teacher conference days as those are counted as a full day) are going to be accounted for, as that would be lost instructional hours and going far below the already required 1080 hours for grades 9-12.  Maybe they account for that with the younger students (grades 1-8) getting more than the 1000 required hours (approximately 167, six hour days) to make the 1027 hours average(approximately 171, six hour days).  Is that the spirit of the law or a loop hole? These are some of the questions we have posed to the TSD, and will update as we get answers. 

****Update 1*****

John Bash response (email 2/19/19):

“Yes, all districts are required to maintain a record showing how they meet the minimum basic education requirements required by law.  Tabitha Whiting (included here) works in our human resources division and is our point person for maintaining this data.  She can provide you a detailed summary and spreadsheet showing how we meet the requirement.  The requirements are separate for Kindergarten vs. grades 1-12 so we calculate these separately and use an averaging method for grades 1-12.  Again, Tabitha can explain how this is calculated and share our data with you.

Yes, we do plan to apply for a waiver for the days missed last week.  However, we won’t be doing that right away as the possibility of more winter weather still exists and changing the school calendar requires negotiation with our unions which is underway.  We also plan to gather input from parents will have a plan for this developed by the end of this week.  In lieu of making up days at the end of the school year (which is our current contract language with the teachers union), options include such things as eliminating early release Fridays, expanding our current school start/stop times, reducing scheduled vacation days, and/or eliminating any remaining ½ day early releases (like the last day of school).  These options are still being discussed and a plan must be agreed to between the district and our unions.  It’s not one side or the other that unilaterally determines this.  In addition to guaranteeing student instructional time, we also are working with our staff to plan and schedule work time for our 180 day employees that would need to be make up the hours not worked due to any approved waiver of school days.   This often includes professional development and/or other professional work related to their assigned duties and responsibilities.” The following spreadsheet was provided by TSD.  It was also explained, “ We report to the State Board of Education whether we meet the criteria or not as simple yes and no answers“, no data or proof is required to be sent.

This is a little confusing at first glance and there are a few minor errors, but the end average (1041 hours) is the TSD reported average if nothing were to change over the course of the year.  Apparently TSD is not required to update the information as time is lost during the years.  It was unclear if this form is ever updated or they look at those lost hours specifically.  The response was, “We maintain the document internally for record keeping purposes only after the fact”.  It was explained that the snow days that recently occurred are still not accounted for as they may be part of the waiver and that decision has not been made at this point.

Average means some students are not meeting the required minimum hours required:

TSD holds to the “average” as opposed to the differing requirements for grades 1-8 and 9-12.  Since this is allowed under the law some of the grades are well below the required minimum, while some are well above.  If you take TSDs numbers as reported, grades 9-12 are averaging about 998 hours of instruction, grades 1-5 average 1063, and 6-8 average 1062 for an overall average of 1041.  This would meet the requirement under the law.

What About Lunch?

TSD is allowing 20 minutes for lunch for each grade.  The bell schedules for the schools allow 30 minutes for lunch. The definition of instructional hours as stated above includes, intermission between classes, but excludes any time for meals.  TSD stated that they only count 20 minutes for lunch because “The passing time for lunch is considered 5 minutes before and after”. 

Interestingly enough, intermission for the HS is 4 minutes between classes and the middle school 3 minutes between classes, but TSD allows them a “passing time” of 5 minutes before and after lunch.  That brings up the question, does the passing time before lunch and after lunch count as intermittent time between classes or is it considered the same as the 5 minutes before school which is NOT allowed to be counted as instructional time? (A debate for another time maybe).  TSD considers it intermittent time and counts the 5 minutes before lunch and the 5 minutes after lunch as instructional time.

On the Washington State Board of Education FAQ site they discuss lunch time as follows:

8. Is there a standard time that should be reduced from the calculation of instructional hours for time spent for lunch?

There is no provision in basic education law setting guard rails around “time actually spent for meals”in the definition of instructional hours. Other law, however, may condition how districts make this determination.

RCW 28A.405.460, for example, provides that all certificated employees shall be allowed reasonable lunch period of not less than thirty continuous minutes during the regular school lunch periods and during which they shall have no assigned duties, unless they work out other arrangements by mutual consent. Children therefore cannot be under the supervision of certificated staff during those thirty minutes.

The Department of Labor & Industries requires by rule that an adult employee (public or private) must be allowed at least a 30-minute meal period starting no earlier than two hours and no later than five hours from the beginning of a shift. (WAC 296-126-092.)

Why does lunch time matter?

If you took the full 30 minute lunch for each grade, instructional hours for 1-5 would drop to 1033, grades 6-8 would drop to 1032 and grades 9-12 would drop to 945, the average instructional hours would drop to 1011 (well below the requirement).  As a reminder the law is 1000 instructional hours for grades 1-8 and 1080 for grades 9-12 or they can use an average of 1027.  Clearly our 9-12 grade students would fall well below the requirement if we did not employ the average. 

Will update later:  I have sent a question to the Washington State Board of Education to see if I can get clarification as to what they mean exactly by intermittent time and lunch times, and will update as I get more information.

What can you do?

Also, in the response from John Bash he discusses some interesting ideas for making up that time.

“We also plan to gather input from parents will have a plan for this developed by the end of this week.  In lieu of making up days at the end of the school year (which is our current contract language with the teachers union), options include such things as eliminating early release Fridays, expanding our current school start/stop times, reducing scheduled vacation days, and/or eliminating any remaining ½ day early releases (like the last day of school).  These options are still being discussed and a plan must be agreed to between the district and our unions.  It’s not one side or the other that unilaterally determines this.” 

TEA has stated that they will not take days away from Spring Break or have Saturday school, so my guess is these are off the table so to speak since TEA has to agree to any variances from the originally set schedule.  It looks like the only viable options we would have would be to get rid of ACT days, lengthen the school day and/or add days at the end of the year.  The state of emergency would only include 4 of the 5 snow days up to this point.  That means we at least have the one day added on at the end of the year so far.  But we are short 24 hours of instructional hours than originally planned, if TSDs accounting of the hours is correct. Fingers crossed that we don’t have anymore this year. 

Lastly, if you have any ideas, or suggestions about which option you would prefer for making up the lost instructional hours, I would encourage you to contact both TSD and TEA and let them know what you think.  

**Update 2**

Here is a link to the survey TSD put out to fill out a survey for your choice for options, one main problem was they didn’t leave the option to leave the days at the end of the year.   Click here to fill out the survey to vote for your choice on how to make up the instructional time.  Choices being: days off of Spring Break, remove half day on last day of school, Saturday school for seniors(not sure how that helps with the instructional hours if only seniors do this), remove ACT days, and lengthen all school days.  Also of note, in the response from John Bash he stated, “In addition to guaranteeing student instructional time, we also are working with our staff to plan and schedule work time for our 180 day employees that would need to be make up the hours not worked due to any approved waiver of school days.   This often includes professional development and/or other professional work related to their assigned duties and responsibilities.”   I am not exactly certain who falls in this category, but this could mean that employees (which may or may not include teachers) would still be required to work the “180 days”.  

**Update from the 2/28 Board Meeting**

During John Bash’s Superintendent report he stated that they were planning on applying for a waiver, but they were not going to apply until the end of March.  He stated they were waiting because they were waiting until the “snow” season was over.  He also stated we had LOTS of responses from the survey and they were going to look at that as they tried to work with TEA to make a decision about how to make up the hours.

For more information from the Washington State Board of Education you can visit these sites:

https://www.sbe.wa.gov/faqs/instructional_hours#4.%20What%20is%20the%20definition%20of%20instructional%20hours?

https://www.sbe.wa.gov/our-work/waivers

We are always looking for feedback, suggested topics or guest articles.  Feel free to email me at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

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