Acknowledging the degree to which education has been disrupted during the pandemic, state lawmakers are discussing ways to help students catch up academically.
Republican Sen. Brad Hawkins represents a Central Washington legislative district that includes Chelan County. He is the main sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would create a pilot program for districts to adopt alternative calendars, including year-round school. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal has long championed moving away from agrarian school calendars that include long summer breaks.
Hawkins said the pandemic has made learning difficult for many students, and the legislation also addresses pre-existing challenges in the current school year setup.
“There’s also annual summer learning loss that occurs even pre-pandemic, and all the re-teaching that occurs every September, so we’re trying to address learning loss on multiple fronts on this bill,” he said.
If the bill becomes law, districts would get extra funding to incentivize the switch. As many as 30 districts would be able to participate in the pilot, which would spread the current 180 school days over a calendar year. The bill passed out of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and then heads to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
A separate bill would create a pilot program for districts to offer high school students a “bridge year.” Students who are seniors this year or next year would have the chance to take classes for an extra year at high school, an institution of higher education or a combination of both. They also could participate in sports and extracurricular activities.
Democratic Sen. Sam Hunt from the South Puget Sound region is the prime sponsor. He said it would help students who have struggled during remote learning.
“A student who receives a D or an F this year during the pandemic could take that course over again and have that grade expunged if he or she gets a better grade,” he said.
The bill had a public hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.