Washougal School District tweaks calendar ahead of 2024-25 school year

New schedule includes ‘semester break’ in February; first day of school set for Sept. 3

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A 4-year-old student reads a book with a staff member during a Washougal School District Transition to Kindergarten class in 2024. (Contributed photo courtesy ashougal School District)

The Washougal School District (WSD) has made a series of tweaks to its 2024-25 school calendar in the hopes of providing more flexibility to its students, families and staff members.

The Washougal School Board approved the calendar during its meeting on March 26.

“Experiencing this calendar (development process) and seeing how these decisions get made, we’ve come a long way,” Washougal School Distric Assistant Superintendent Aaron Hansen said during the board’s March 12 meeting. “It wasn’t always so collaborative. It’s very collaborative now, and actually something I look forward to.”

The district’s 2024-25 calendar includes a “semester break” day in February instead of a professional development day in October, and a third inclement weather make-up day before the end of the school year, according to the district’s communications and information technology director, Les Brown.

“Feedback from our teachers was that having a non-student day between first and second semesters helps them be prepared, especially if they are teaching different courses between the two terms,” Brown said. “(The group recommended the extra snow day) with the hope of not extending the school year.”

WSD’s 2024-25 school year will run from Sept. 3, 2024, through June 17, 2025. The district’s winter break is scheduled for Dec. 23, 2024, through Jan. 3, 2025, with spring break spanning from March 31, 2025 to April 4, 2025. The Washougal High School 2025 graduation ceremony will be held June 14, 2025.

“We’ve heard from folks that this was the smoothest, best opening of school that we’ve had,” Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton said during the March 12 school board meeting, referring to the first day of the 2023-24 school year. “A lot of that had to do with (the fact that) it was in September. That made a difference for folks.”

District leaders met with members of the Washougal Association of Educators, Public School Employees, Principal Association of Washougal, and WSD School Board student representatives on Jan. 4 to discuss calendar priorities, according to Hansen.

“The district uses a collaborative process with representatives of many different groups to develop priorities for the calendar,” Brown said. “(They) identify priorities for development of the calendar while recognizing the various requirements that the calendar must meet.”

The group determined that its 2024-25 calendar should include 180 student attendance days; observe legal holidays; align its 10-day winter vacation and five-day spring break with nearby districts; identify a minimum of four inclement weather days; identify four certificated professional development days and eight early-release conference days; reserve the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a non-attendance day for students; and end the first semester on a Friday.

The group then reviewed calendars from neighboring districts, developed two versions of the calendar, and sent a survey to various staff groups to gather input into the two options.

“Our district has many students who have parents who work in neighboring districts, so coordinating days off is helpful for members of our community,” Brown said. “There was a larger number who preferred the calendar option which included the semester break day, so that was the option presented to the board for their consideration.”

Student representatives Alex Vanderfang, Buggy Eakin, and Claire Zakovics voted in favor of the calendar before the Board voted during the March 26 meeting. Including students in the calendar development process and having board representatives vote on the calendar “is one way we ensure that student voice is included in decision making,” according to Brown.

“We believe (that) student voice is important,” said Superintendent Mary Templeton. “Having our student representatives to the board cast advisory votes helps students engage in the process and understand the governance of schools.”

The calendar includes a semester break day on Monday, Feb. 3, 2025, and five inclement weather days, three within the school year (March 14, April 25, and May 23).

“We adjusted snow routing this year, and it’s been pretty successful allowing us to have school (on snowy days),” Templeton said during the March 12 meeting. “That was a team effort from a lot of folks in the transportation (department). This was our first year of exercising this new adventure of, ‘How do we truncate some of the snow routing?’ But we can’t do a darn thing when there’s ice. I will just say that for the record. Enough of that.”