The Pe Ell School District is currently considering switching to a four-day school week, in anticipation of a bill that would allow more school districts to forego the 180-day school year.
“Initially, when we were in our budget crunch a few years ago, I studied it in the light of savings for not going that fifth day,” said Pe Ell School District Superintendent Kyle MacDonald. “When the levy crunch came through, we looked at it again in that capacity.”
The Pe Ell School District held a special meeting on Thursday, April 11 to gather community feedback, but did not post proper notice 24 hours in advance as is required by state law. The district labeled the meeting as a “community forum.” The Pe Ell School Board had a quorum, but did not take formal action.
“At the time, we had only three board positions that were filled, but we had appointed our other board members, but they were not sworn in,” MacDonald said. “They were there listening. … Honestly, I thought it was a community forum, so when we put together the community forum, I didn’t find out until later that it would be a special meeting. We called it to order, but we didn’t advertise it.”
Pe Ell School Board president Colin Newell could not be reached for comment.
MacDonald said it was an “innocent mistake” and that the Pe Ell School District will advertise for special meetings moving forward. The next special meeting regarding the four-day school is week is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18.
“We’re not trying to sneak around,” MacDonald said. “It’s a community forum that everyone that was invited to, but we did want our board members there so (they) could listen.”
State House Bill 1803 would increase the number of waivers that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction could grant to school districts from five to 15. State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama sponsored the bill, which has already passed the house and senate.
MacDonald said concerns he heard from community members included questions about childcare on Fridays and not having a school lunch that day. MacDonald said the district has since done more research and will have more answers at the Thursday meeting.
The Pe Ell School District currently has 13 half days for teachers to do professional development. Should the district change to a four-day school week, the district would propose teachers come in one Friday each month for professional development.
This would also affect working conditions for teachers, and the district and Pe Ell Education Association would be required to reopen the collective bargaining agreements to negotiate.
Should the district change to a four-day school week, it would require school board approval.
“We feel like it could be a viable option for us, but we want to make sure that our public is well informed,” MacDonald said. “We want to make a really good, well-informed decision. There is a lot of research that says it can be beneficial. … We’re just interested in the possibility of it, so we are holding these community forums.”