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Sunday, August 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

Spokane school district proposes shorter Fridays and larger class sizes as budget cuts loom

Students from North Central High School rally in Riverfront Park on Friday, April 19, 2019, in support of Spokane Public Schools teachers who were issued layoffs notices last week. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Students from North Central High School rally in Riverfront Park on Friday, April 19, 2019, in support of Spokane Public Schools teachers who were issued layoffs notices last week. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Budget cuts and layoffs at Spokane’s public schools may mean that students are let out of school one hour and 15 minutes early every Friday to give teachers weekly preparation and planning time.

The change, which Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said was based on feedback from the community, would offer “a more consistent weekly schedule for families.”

The extra teacher prep time would be in response to the elimination of school librarians as teachers will be asked to lead library time for their classes rather than using that time for lesson planning and other outside-of-class work.

This year, the district has 12 early release Fridays, in which students are dismissed two hours early.

That works out to 24 hours of missed instructional time per year. The shorter Friday schedule proposed this week would shave another 28 1/2 hours annually.

Another proposed change includes longer lunch periods for students. Students and parents have complained that hurried lunch periods force students to eat too quickly and that they are missing out on opportunities for social and emotional growth that comes with eating lunch together.

The financial consequences of layoffs also could mean larger class sizes for grades 4-6 along with middle school and high school classes, Redinger said.

She said the district will continue to work with the Legislature to put more money into school districts to fund class-size reductions in those grades, much as lawmakers have done to support smaller class sizes in grades K-3.

While school officials worked on budget details, about a dozen North Central High School students held a small protest at Riverfront Park on Friday afternoon.

The protest comes eight days after layoff notices went out to six NC teachers.

“When I heard, I cried so hard my nose bled,” said NC freshman Liliana Cargile, who stood at the corner of Post and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

Next to her was classmate Mikayla Fox, who said, “I was pretty angry because they are teachers who are going to help us and be there for us, and now they won’t be there.”

The students were long on idealism but short on concrete ideas about how the district should deal with a projected $31 million budget deficit for next year.

Some suggested equal cuts at all schools. Others thought the district should consider across-the-board pay cuts for all employees.

“We just want to let them know that we care,” Cargile said.

A day earlier Redinger shared her frustrations over next year’s budget in messages to staff and students.

“The cuts are causing pain and anxiety for staff, students, and families,” Redinger began. “For that, we are truly sorry.”

Redinger and her staff dealt with part of the $31 million deficit last week by announcing layoff plans for 325 employees, of whom 182 are teachers and certificated staff.

Those notices went out last week. Sometime next week, the district is expected to send layoff notices to 143 classified staff on May 2.

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