Schools halfhearted about their half-days

By Pamela Brice

For the Herald

Just about every other Friday, students in the Edmonds School District are released from school a half-day early.

The teachers aren’t going on long weekend vacations, they are doing curriculum planning.

Releasing students early can be contentious for some districts. The Everett School District stopped the practice this year because an agreement could not be reached with the teachers union.

Teachers want the time away from students to plan lessons with other teachers. But releasing students can be inconvenient for parents and an expense for school districts.

It’s an issue being discussed at bargaining tables throughout the area, as several districts work on finalizing contracts with the teacher’s union.

When the Edmonds School District implemented 12 early release days this year (which it will continue for the 2002-03 school year), district officials took the concerns into consideration, said Jane Westergaard-Nimocks, human relations director.

"We know, for our parents, that any time you have to adjust your schedule it will cause stress," she said. "Our superintendent met with parent groups and with our Citizens Planning Commission about when the best time would be to schedule this time, and parents said Fridays."

The district began offering enrichment activities at some schools on some early release days so that students who don’t have supervision at home will have something to do, Westergaard-Nimocks said.

The impact of early release days will be evaluated by the district and the union to see if changes need to be made for 2003-04.

The Everett School District, which had 16 early release days in 2000-01, eliminated them for this school year, said Gay Campbell, district spokeswoman.

"It was a subject of negotiation with the Everett Education Association, and we could not agree on that for this year, so we simply did not offer it," she said. "We agree we need professional development time, but unfortunately the two parties were unable to agree on whether there should be early release days, how many and how they would be structured.

"Our contract is open now, and that subject could come up again," she said.

Pamela Brice is a staff writer for the Enterprise weekly newspapers. You can call her at 425-673-6522 or send e-mail to brice@heraldnet.com.

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