With the last day of classes for Spokane Public Schools falling at an unusual time this year, many parents are allowing their kids to skip the last day.
This school year, for the first time, students and staff have a day off on June 19 in recognition of Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States and was made a federal holiday in 2021.
The holiday falls on a Monday, and a makeup day made necessary by a snow day cancellation in November pushes the last day of school to Tuesday.
As is typical for the final day of instruction, schools will release early, only operating for three hours.
Many SPS parents now face a dilemma: to send their child to school that day or to start summer early.
“We’re going camping,” said Tom Parker, parent to three.
Parker was surprised to hear school was scheduled to end on Tuesday, rather than the previous Friday as originally scheduled. His family had already made its summer plans based on the school’s original release day.
Unwilling to reschedule vacation, his kids will be among those absent on the last day.
“Typically, kids don’t really do anything on the last day. I don’t know why they’d do it halfway through the week,” Parker said as his kids splashed in the Rotary Fountain at Riverfront Park. “That’s pretty silly.”
Parent Nico Menetto said the length of the school day was a deterrent.
“ I’m not going to send my kid if they only have three hours,” Menetto said, pulling his daughter in a little red wagon.
“I know a lot of other parents not sending their kids either.”
While parents have the discretion to excuse their child from instruction, with valid reasons including appointments, illnesses, family emergencies and safety concerns, the school district warns of missing instruction.
“We hope to get as many students as possible because it’s still a school day,” said Sandra Jarrard, SPS executive director of communications.
Every day is vital for a child’s education, the district said. And schools offer resources to students beyond the classroom, such as free meals, occupational and physical therapy, and interactions with peers.
For some students, a school breakfast and lunch can be the only meal they eat that day.
Other school districts in the area have similar calendars – Mead and Central Valley will also conclude their school years on the silly Tuesday.
Washington law mandates 180 days of scheduled instruction, so calendar writers budget a few days as designated makeup days in the event of a weather or emergency school cancellation.
This year, all of SPS’ makeup days were tacked onto the end of the school year, creating a perfect storm with Juneteenth. In the 2023-24 school year, makeup days are March 15, June 17 and 18. In the 2024-25 school year, Feb. 18, March 14 and May 23 are slotted for makeup days, if necessary.
If the district doesn’t cancel school throughout the year, students will have these days off. SPS said it has had an average of one snow day per year in the past five years.