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Enumclaw School Board OK's early-dismissal on Fridays

Enumclaw School District leaders and teachers will get the collaboration time they desire, but it won't be on Wednesday mornings.

After much discussion, a presentation from Superintendent Mike Nelson and the opinion of a few parents, the Enumclaw School Board approved a 60-minute, early-dismissal Friday option beginning in September. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will leave school one-hour before the final bell each Friday so teachers can meet to analyze student work, develop assessments and create opportunities to meet the learning needs of students. Dismissal times will be 1:30 p.m. for secondary students and 2:30 p.m. for elementary.

The decision was not without discussion.

In early March, district officials proposed at a districtwide, 75-minute late start Wednesday. Under that plan, elementary school students would begin the school day at 10:15 a.m. and secondary students would arrive at 9:15 p.m.

Enumclaw High School leaders adopted late arrival, a weekly two-hour late start on Wednesday mornings, six years ago as a way for their staff to work together to improve student learning.

Due to budget reductions, EHS's late start was going away. Two secondary bus runs on Wednesday mornings, approximately 18 to 23 times a year, was no longer financially practical. Budgetary strains were also causing the loss of teacher collaboration time at the elementary and middle school levels. The solution was to follow the lead of several neighboring districts and go with a districtwide late start.

But at a community meeting March 5, several parents had other thoughts.

In many cases, parents supported teachers and the need for them to get together if it helps students; others pointed to the inconvenience – and in some cases, hardships – a late start creates.

District officials and board members continued to be bombarded with e-mails and phone calls.

At Monday night's meeting, Superintendent Mike Nelson presented a second option – a 75-minute, early-dismissal on Fridays. He also presented the board with more information on Professional Learning Communities and collaboration, as well as surrounding district's statistics and a few from the high school, as well.

Board member Corey Cassell presented the motion for a 60-minute, Friday afternoon early release. He noted the White River, Orting and Puyallup school districts find one hour to be sufficient and, Cassell continued, a late-afternoon meeting time provides teachers with an open-ended working session, allowing them to stay later if necessary rather than rushing to start class.

In the end, the board voted 3-2 in favor of the Friday afternoon option, with Board President Cathy Dahlquist and Nancy Merrill voting no. The pair supported the concept and the Friday dismissal, but voted against the proposal because they preferred the 75-minute time block.

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