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Enumclaw schools to end early 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 time 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 a districtwide, 75-minute late start on Wednesdays. 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 began using late arrival, a weekly two-hour late start on Wednesday mornings, six years ago as a way for staff to work together to improve student learning.

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

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

In many cases, parents supported teachers and their need to get together, if it helps students; but there were concerns about the inconvenience, and in some cases, the hardship, a late start creates.

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

During a March 16 meeting, Nelson presented a second proposal – dismissing students 75 minutes early on Fridays. He also presented the board with more information on Professional Learning Communities and collaboration, as well as surrounding districts’ statistics and a few from the high school as well.

Board member Corey Cassell presented a motion for a 60-minute, Friday afternoon early release. He noted 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 work session, allowing them to stay later if necessary rather than having to rush off to class.

In the end, the board voted 3-2 with Board President Cathy Dalquist and Nancy Merrill voting no. The pair supported both the concept and the Friday early dismissal, but voted against the proposal because they preferred the 75-minute time block.

In other business, the board:

• listened to a presentation from Enumclaw Middle School peer mediation advisers and other students. EMS began its peer mediation program five years ago as a way to help students solve problems and resolve issues. Approximately 21 students in grades six through eight serve as peer mediators and so far this year have been called upon about 20 times. Students who serve as peer mediators are good and active listeners, stay neutral, keep information confidential and do not judge others. They are selected by application and teacher recommendation.

• accepted a $1,000 donation from the Gateway Concert Band to the Enumclaw middle and high school music programs; a donation of $5,000 from the Enumclaw Rotary Club to the EHS choir program for sound shells and a $1,224 donation from Westwood Elementary School PTA to the school for a document camera.

• hired Ruth Vesey as a health room professional at Westwood, Kristine Sharick as a kitchen assistant at Black Diamond Elementary School and Annette Vranizan as office manager at Westwood.

• transfered health room professional Marina Koch from Westwood to Thunder Mountain Middle School.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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