Lizbeth Barragan worried about falling behind in her studies after missing three weeks of classes because of last month’s wildfires, which shuttered schools across Santa Rosa.
The Piner High School junior is taking three advanced placement classes this year. Although her teachers picked up the pace after classes resumed in late October, Barragan, 16, questioned whether she and her classmates will be prepared for the AP exams this May, as well as future advanced courses.
“We are a little worried we won’t have enough time to learn everything we need to,” she said.
Local school districts affected by the fires don’t have to make up the missed days after receiving a waiver from the state, allowing them to collect Average Daily Attendance funding during the emergency closures. It’s up to each individual school district to decide whether to extend the school year, said Scott Roark, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.
So far, the Sonoma County Office of Education isn’t aware of any district extending their school year. Some, though, are looking to beef up their summer school programs for families who want their children to make up missed time.
Santa Rosa City Schools, the county’s largest district, plans to partner with organizations such as the Sonoma County Career Technical Education Foundation and Sonoma State University to provide summer learning opportunities for students in kindergarten to 12th grade. The district is thinking “outside of the box,” assistant superintendent Anna-Maria Guzman said.
She said the programs would be voluntary and include all curricular areas.
“We’re really just in the beginning processes of trying to develop these opportunities,” Guzman said at school board meeting last week.
The Piner-Olivet Union School District also wants to extend its summer school program. Superintendent Carmen Diaz-French said the district is looking for funding to provide a two-week program for families interested in their children making up some of the lost school time.
“We are looking for approximately $100,000,” she said.
Mark West Union School District Superintendent Ron Calloway said his district won’t be extending the regular school year but is still exploring whether to provide additional instruction opportunities in the summertime.
Jenni Klose, the Santa Rosa school board president, said only a handful of parents reached out to her, asking the district to extend the school year, while a few others requested summertime programs.
“(They) have asked that we provide special programs in the summer to ensure that the students don’t miss out on too much learning,” she said.
Teachers have been modifying their curriculum and cutting back on assignments to make up for lost time, said Will Lyon, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association, which represents nearly 1,000 educators. For example, he said teachers might assign five instead six novels for students to read over the course of the school year.
“In general, the teachers are covering the standards,” he said.
Lyon said extending the school year would take an agreement with teachers, , many of whom already have planned out their summer break. The district’s teachers continue to work without a contract after voting down a tentative deal last month. Lyon said they likely would not approve extending the school year.