Washington schools ponder shortening summer vacation

April 5, 2013
Two students walk past Washington High School after classes. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington School District is considering shortening the summer vacation from classes, a proposal that has met with opposition from some of its teachers.

The school board could vote as early as Monday on a proposed calendar that has students beginning classes Aug. 21 and ending them June 12 or 14 to make it less likely they would forget over the summer what they learned during the previous term, Washington school Director Troy Breese said Friday.

He said some in the district have complained the longer school year would be intrusive on family vacations.

“I’m not sure we are going to find a middle ground for everybody,” Breese said.

A large number of teachers turned out at a school board planning meeting last month to complain about the tentative calendar after finding out about it on short notice, said high school history teacher Jeff Bunner.

“We are all for change that helps our kids and makes sense for the population,” Bunner said.

He said the longer school year includes extending the days off students and teachers have for Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. At the same time, he said, it will make it more challenging for students to work full-time during the summer to help their families or earn money for college, as well as find volunteer opportunities to qualify for scholarships. Meanwhile, the calendar does not add any additional teaching days beyond the required 180 days.

Bunner said the students, under the proposed schedule, would be at a disadvantage because they would have fewer days of instruction prior to their taking performance tests that determine whether school districts are meeting state and federal standards.

“They’d like to eventually eliminate the summer vacation,” he said.

Breese said the calendar on the table “isn’t a done deal” and he’s unsure whether it has enough board support for adoption.

“I do not personally think we should cut too much into June or too much into August,” he said.

Washington Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo did not return a call Friday seeking comment. The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the high school cafeteria.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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