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Washington lawmaker urges schools to swap spring and summer breaks

Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, says districts should take a long spring break and return to classes in the summer when more teachers are vaccinated.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it's looking more and more like some districts will stay in remote learning for the rest of the school year.

With that in mind, a Washington lawmaker proposes a bold idea: Give kids a longer break this spring and then send them back to classrooms in the summer.

“I still support summer break, but maybe summer break could be four weeks, maybe it could be six weeks,” said Sen. Brad Hawkins, a Republican who represents the 12th district, in Douglas, Chelan, Grant, and Okanogan counties.

The state requires districts to provide 180 days of learning each school year.

Hawkins, a former school board member and the father of two public school students, published a statement Friday, urging districts to push some of the remaining 180 learning days to the summer months when teachers will have a better chance of being fully vaccinated and COVID-19 cases numbers could be lower.

“Maybe we should think about just cutting our losses a bit,” Hawkins said.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has been pushing for more in-class learning and released a statement in response to Hawkins' idea.

"We support creative ideas districts may implement to maximize in-person instruction, consistent with all health and safety protocols," the statement said.

The state and some local districts have been pushing for a return to an in-person classroom. Teachers and some parents have pushed back, asking districts to wait until educators are eligible for the vaccines. 

Ultimately the decision to return to in-person learning is up to each local district.

For now, Hawkins’ idea is just that — something for districts to consider.

But he is sponsoring a bill that encourages districts to spread their 180 school days over the entire year, with shorter breaks, a change Hawkins argues would reduce the learning loss kids experience when they are out of school for long stretches.

“Because of this pandemic, I'm really encouraging my legislative colleagues to think big and think differently about some transformational changes for our educational system,” he said.

The Washington Education Association says it has not taken a position on year-round schooling. 

“If a district is considering changes in calendar structure, they need to collaborate with their local unions to address the impacts. Districts should also consult with parents and the broader community that might be impacted by the calendar change,” the WEA said in a statement.