Snowmaggedon 2019

Dear Westside Parents,

When I moved here from Colorado, I had no idea that winter would follow me in such a dramatic way! I hope you are all surviving Snowmageddon 2019 and able to find the joy in being snowed in. In my neighborhood, some innovative folks blocked off a steep street at both ends, brought out a leather couch, a sound system, and an outdoor heater, all under the glare of a handy street lamp - kids from near and far spent hours sledding down the street until long after dark.  So much fun!

With today being our 4th snow day in the last week and a half, our teachers have communicated to families about reading, math practice, and assignments that can keep students engaged. Please be sure to follow through on teacher recommendations.

Naturally, questions have arisen about the amount of school time we are missing. I have received questions like: How many snow days are built into our calendar? Will we need to add days in June to make up for lost instructional time? Will Mary Poppins open on time with all the rehearsal time missed?

As a school leader at an independent school, I try to answer questions like these with what is best for our children and our community. I am acutely aware that a Westside education is an important investment. Our kids are involved in so much at school – physical education, the arts, social and emotional development, play, project-based learning – the day is far greater than the sum of its parts.

In deciding when to close school for unsafe conditions, I typically follow the lead of Seattle Public Schools. They are in touch with city government and can get more comprehensive details on road conditions and safety than I can.  

When it comes to making up snow days, we diverge from the public schools a little.  We don't have the same government oversight, nor are we subject to union agreements in the same way. And we tend not to think of 'instructional time' in the same vein.

According to the Revised Code of Washington ((RCW)28A.195.010, introduction, (1), (2) for those following along at home!) The minimum school year consists of no less than 180 school days or the equivalent in annual minimum program hour offerings, i.e. 450 hours in kindergarten, and 1,000 hours in grades 1–12. The state requirements relating to assigned percentages of total program hour offerings prescribed for public schools do not apply to private schools and private sectarian schools. 
Over the last two days, I have been in email conversation with heads of school from across Seattle. Like almost all NWAIS schools. Westside calculates our school year in hours spent at school, not in school days. Our days are long and rich. Our K-4 students are in school over 1,100 hours a year and our middle school students longer than that. This does not count after-school athletics or EDP. No wonder they're tired!

Accordingly, at this time Westside has no plans to extend the school year further into June. Westside's 8th grade graduation will continue to be on June 12, with the last day of school on June 13.

Once we get back to school, I will discuss the timing of our 7th/8th grade musical Mary Poppins with our performing arts team and our middle school faculty. We want to make sure that our students have enough rehearsal time to shine, and we are aware that family plans have been made. We will have a decision by the end of this week.

In the meantime, enjoy this unusual weather phenomenon with your kids and then let's send this snow back to Colorado where it belongs!

Whether you are staying put or traveling to warmer climates, have a wonderful mid-winter break next week with your family.


Steve de Beer
Head of School