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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

With the last day of school following a three-day weekend, attendance plummeted in Spokane

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Sept. 24, 2019.   (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

With the last day of class following a three-day weekend, many students skipped the last day of school this year in the Spokane area, attendance data show.

Districtwide in Spokane Public Schools, 65% of students were present on the final day compared to an 85% average in previous years’ final day. On the last day in the Mead School District, 50% of students were marked absent.

Last day attendance records were inaccessible for Central Valley, though a spokesperson said roll call is typically lower as families take a head start on summer break.

Some students and parents said they had vacation plans, and others didn’t see the point of going in, given the early dismissal on the last day.

Ernie Summerfield, a Cheney High School student, attended school on the last day.

“I did absolutely nothing,” Summerfield said about his academic experience on the final day of school.

He said he attended to hang out with his friends and say goodbye to teachers. Some teachers joked about not going at all to the final day, while others used the final day as a chance for students to socialize.

This year’s sticky wicket of a last day was due to a new federal holiday and snow make-up days.

Washington began giving state workers the day off for Juneteenth in 2022, though it became a federal holiday the previous year. The day commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth was on a Monday this year, prompting a three-day weekend. Snow days in each district necessitated make-up days at the end of the year. This combination brewed a perfect storm; the last day of school was a Tuesday after a long weekend.

District officials and members of the teachers’ union in Spokane Public Schools designed future years’ schedules with snow-day make-ups embedded throughout the calendar, rather than coming after the Juneteenth holiday. In the 2023-24 school year, there’s one cancellation make-up day in March and two in June, before Juneteenth. In the next year, these days are in February, March and May.

Cheney’s make-up days are embedded in months leading up to June in the next two school years.

Mead schools also have their make-up days interspersed throughout in next school year’s calendar.

The Central Valley School District set a snow make-up day for after the last day, but before Juneteenth.

Should a weather event close school for a day, schools will make it up on one of those days rather than extending the school year in June. In the event the district doesn’t call a snow day, students and staff will have those days off.

Reporter Zak Curley contributed to this report.