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Reykdal: School year likely won't extend into July or August because of funding issues

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
Rachel La Corte
The Associated Press
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal

UPDATE, 6:00 PM: Adds state superintendent's comments on graduation requirements for high school seniors.

With schools closed statewide until late April, many parents and students have wondered whether the school year will be extended into July or August.

In a webinar hosted by the League of Education Voters, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said that’s not likely.

That’s because when the governor ordered that schools shut down to limit the spread of the coronavirus, he said the state would continue funding school districts. Reykdal said if school continues deep into the summer, that would create a cash-flow problem for districts. His office recently said the school year should go until June 19, though he said that date could change.

“With the governor insisting that we pay folks, because he doesn’t want to contribute to the economic impact, districts will continue to burn their cash rate through that date,” he said. “So if we then add on July and August school, of course, we’d be talking about large supplemental contracts likely and lots of additional costs.”

He said because school staff members are continuing to get paid, they’re also expected to work. But he says the learning opportunities will differ district by district, and parents should be patient.

“Our expectation through guidance is that we will get every district to some point where they’re engaging students and families in what learning can look like,” he said. “It will not be the same. It simply will not be five and a half hours of a first-grader or a third-grader in front of a screen receiving instruction like they would in a classroom.”

Seattle Public Schools told families that it will start on Monday to offer educational programming on channel 26, which is called SPS TV. It also will be available on the district website and social media. And the district is handing out packets of learning materials at school lunch distribution sites.

As for whether accommodations will be made so that high school seniors can graduate on time, Reykdal said he doesn't think seniors will have to repeat anything and that "we want to get kids graduated."

He said teachers will be expected to engage with students and give prioritization to students who are behind in credits to help them catch up and complete coursework through, for example, project-based learning. And he predicted that many school districts may switch to pass/fail grading for this semester so as not to hurt students' grade point averages.

Additionally, the State Board of Education has the authority to waive credits and the legislature passed a bill at the end of the legislative session addressing this issue, he said. 

"The State Board of Ed, I believe, is poised to act to make sure the waiver is possible for students who need it," Reykdal said.

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In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.