Support S.B.5147 | Letter

The difficulties maintaining school, in person and virtually, has been a challenge worldwide during this pandemic. The coming months can be a perfect time for the Orcas Island School District to think in an imaginative, positive, experimental and exciting way.

A new bill in the State Senate—S.B.5147, would create a pilot program for up to 30 school districts to provide instructional days in at least 11 months of the year. Breaks would be limited to a maximum of 4 consecutive weeks. For this school year and this summer, the State Superintendent is hoping to use federal and state money to expand summer learning programs. Sponsoring Senator Brad Hawkins states, “Now is the time—as we pull out of this pandemic to think about addressing student learning loss. Long summer breaks, requiring significant review in the fall, are the last things our kids need in the years ahead. I hope for a program that encourages lawmakers and districts to consider transformational reforms to meet student’s academic needs.”

This legislation has been backed by WA Superintendent of Public Education, Chris Reykdal, who has been pushing for a balanced calendar for several years, as a help for both students and teachers. “This was a good idea before Covid and it is an even better idea now, not as a temporary fix but as a permanent way to rethink education,” Reykdal said.

Orcas Summer School, with everyone primarily outside in the fresh, non-Covid air, in diverse island locations the way Camp Orkila has been used, could also invite community participation. We joke about having more retired professors and prize winners in all fields than anyplace in the country. Isn’t it possible that a few might enjoy working with the young after long Covid isolation?

These next months could hopefully include consideration of year-round school with scheduled breaks, with the definite support of many in the community.

Orcas Island is admired for its community spirit and skill in dealing with issues. The new health district, the current Orcas Center vaccination program, the Community Foundation grants and the Food Bank are recent examples. Our beloved School District could be an example to the State of Washington of what can be done to actually improve the future of education.

To add your voice to the discussion about this issue you can contact your 40th District State Senator, Liz Lovelett: liz@lizlovelett.org or at 1004 Commercial Avenue #453, Anacortes, WA 98221.

Andrea Hendrick

Orcas Island