The superintendent prefers kindergarten. The teachers union president will teach anything but knitting and music.
Spokane School District 81 administrators are ready to fill in for teachers who might be mysteriously absent Monday, the ice storm makeup day scheduled during spring break week.
“I’ve kept my calendar clear for this,” said Superintendent Gary Livingston.
But how many families kept their calendars clear for this? Spring break week traditionally is marked on many household calendars months in advance: “VACATION!”
“If I had a family and we’d planned a trip, I’d take the trip,” said Lynn Jones, president of the Spokane Education Association.
While administrators can’t predict how many students will show up for class, empty desks won’t really matter. As long as the district has schools staffed and open, it counts as a school day, administrators say.
Monday marks the second of three makeup days District 81 students can blame on the November storm that left schools dark, cold and surrounded by downed power lines.
The final makeup day will extend the school year to June 13.
Other school districts in the Spokane area are taking the full week off and making up the ice storm time on other days.
Spokane school administrators have already booked 183 substitute teachers to replace teachers who got permission to take the day off.
Many of them had nonrefundable airline tickets and other vacation plans that were difficult to change, said Mark Anderson, the district’s human resources director.
Another 80 substitute teachers are on call, guaranteed the $100-a-day rate whether or not they work, Anderson said.
“I think we’ll end up using them up,” said Anderson.
Typically, about 250 substitutes a day replace sick teachers and those attending workshops and conferences, Anderson said. The $25,000 the district is paying Monday’s substitutes won’t affect the district’s budget since administrators saved at least that much on substitutes during the ice storm because school was closed.
Only five teachers who asked for the day off didn’t get it, Anderson said, because they didn’t meet the deadline for requests.
On Monday morning, most administrators with teaching certificates will be on standby, in case an unexpected number of the district’s 2,200 teachers are absent, he said.
Jones doubts that will happen. “My experience with teachers is they come to school when they should.”
Greg Baerlocher, principal at Audubon Elementary School, is thinking positive. Only two of his 24 teachers are scheduled to be absent and he expects most students to show up.
“Class as usual,” Baerlocher predicted.
School board member Nancy Fike sympathized with families who adjusted their plans around the makeup day.
“We didn’t have a lot of options,” she said, noting that the district is required to offer a 180-day school year.
Her two children will definitely be at their desks when the bell rings, Fike said.
“They kind of think they’ll be the only two in school,” she added. “But they’ll be there.”
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