Pasco School District could add 30 more school days

Pasco School District could add 30 more school days »Play Video
PASCO, Wash. - It's no secret Pasco schools have battled low test scores. But KEPR learned some elementary schools are in the bottom five percent for the state. Now the district is looking to keep kids in the classroom longer.

Mark Arreola has taught in the Pasco school for the last 15 years. Mark sees the "brain drain" that can occur over the summer.

"The frustrations come when at the beginning of the year and then you're struggling to get these kids to remember what they were taught the last year," said Virgie Robinson teacher, Mark Arreola.

But those frustrations may be mitigated. The Pasco School District is exploring the idea of adding up to six more weeks to the school calendar, an addition of 30 days in the classroom. Many of Pasco's students enter the district at a disadvantage because English isn't their first language.

"Second language learners need to catch up to native language speakers, they have to make 15 months' gain in consecutive years, that means more time in school," said assistant superintendent, Elizabeth Flynn.

The district tells me six schools could extend their calendar. Five schools were targeted as a "priority" school by the state, including Chess, Emerson, Longfellow, Robinson, and Whittier. The district considers Captain Grey a priority since it's a feeder school.

"Giving our kids the opportunity they need to catch up and close that achievement gap with their middle income peers," said Flynn.

And that achievement gap is fairly wide. Schools on the priority list are in the bottom five-percent of the state for standardized testing in reading and math. There's about a 30 percent difference in test scores for third and fourth graders in those Pasco schools compared to the state average. The gap narrows in fifth grade. It's still tough for teachers to see those numbers.

"They should leap over the top of the wall, win the race, but it didn't happen, and it's devastating," said Arreola.

Pasco would work out an agreement with teachers to cover their salaries for the extra time. But Mark wouldn't mind having the extra weeks of work in lieu of a summer break.

"Of course it's a win-win situation, how could you lose, you can't," said Arreola.

District officials say that if they were to receive proper funding, the program could start as early as next school year. And they tell KEPR that a multi-track program is currently not in the discussion.