School district aligns 2019 spring break with Washington

A school bus leaves the Hermiston High School parking lot.

Staff Writer

Hermiston School District students will align even more closely with their Washington peers next year, as the school board on Monday voted 4-1 to adopt the same spring break as Washington next year.

The decision means spring break will be from April 1 to 5 in 2019, the same as Washington state schools and Hermiston’s new athletic league rivals, instead of the last week in March along with Oregon schools.

Board members Jason Middleton and Dave Smith were absent for the vote, and Mark Gomolski was the lone dissenter.

Interim superintendent Tricia Mooney said she was making the recommendation to the board at the suggestion of the Educational Council, a group of staff representing each school, two administrators and two school board members that makes recommendations about scheduling.

At two previous school board meetings, some elementary school teachers had spoken against the proposed change. At Monday’s meeting, Josh Linn, a Rocky Heights Elementary School teacher who has been a vocal opponent of the schedule change, again voiced his concern about the change. Linn has said at several previous meetings that the proposed schedule would be disruptive to testing for elementary school students and teachers, as well as make it difficult for teachers who have children in different districts.

“Especially at the elementary school, we feel we were devalued,” he said. “The Ed Council never came back and got feedback from teachers. It’s my impression that they didn’t intend for things to change.”

Linn said that while the district said it wanted to make a decision that was best for all students, he didn’t feel that was the case with this choice.

“We feel this prioritizes high school sports kids over academics at the elementary school level,” he said.

Rocky Heights teacher Shanna Evans also read a prepared statement opposing the schedule change.

Loretta Fitterer, president of the Hermiston Association of Teachers, which designates the Educational Council in its collective bargaining agreement, spoke in favor of the calendar change in her statement to the board.

School board members said while they knew the change would make some upset, they felt they could not ignore the Educational Council’s recommendation.

Board member Ginny Holthus referred to a letter Linn had sent to the board, outlining his concerns.

“Regarding the comments on sports — we’re making the recommendation based on the fact that they’re students first,” she said.

“It’s difficult to set aside the time that the Ed Council spent,” added board member Josh Goller.

Board chair Karen Sherman acknowledged that some would be negatively affected.

“But we need to make sure we’re doing best not just for high school kids,” she said. “It’s not just based on sports. It’s based on how it impacts all kids.”

Sherman and Mooney said that an online survey was made available to all district staff members.

Gomolski said he had heard comments from many people in the past few weeks.

“You’re right,” he said to the teachers present at the meeting. “It always seems like we’re doing what’s best for high school sports kids. At this point, I don’t feel comfortable voting for it.”

Linn said he was disappointed with the decision.

“A lot of community members will be negatively impacted,” he said. “This is going to be an every-year issue. We’ll have to try to influence the Ed Council next year.”

The 2018-2019 school year is now scheduled to start Aug. 27 and end June 10. Winter break is scheduled for Dec. 24 through Jan. 4, and spring break for April 1 through 5.

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