Salem-Keizer teachers balance fun and learning on snow day make-ups


Salem-Keizer teachers balance fun and learning on snow day make-ups

Published 4:46 p.m. PT June 16, 2017 | Updated 7:30 p.m. PT June 16, 2017

Jeff Lewis was ready for summer.

The fifth-grade teacher at Four Corners Elementary School already had a summer gig lined up at a local camp. But as snow days kept adding up throughout the year, teachers like Lewis soon learned the school year would be extended to make up lost instructional time.

In January the district announced they would add back three days — two at the end of the year and one in March. Rather than ending the year on Wednesday, schools continued through Friday.

But Lewis wasn’t mad. He saw the time as an opportunity.

“The snow days just pushed back when we (did) end-of-the-year activities like the fifth-grade graduation ceremony,” he said. “There’s been pretty normal attendance.”

When students miss instruction time, teachers often have to reteach material or the students fall behind, Lewis said.

“The more they’re here, the more chance they have to learn,” he said.

Lewis said low-income students are at greater risk of summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide.”

Although some students will be able to recuperate when they return in the fall, students who do not have access to books at home, the ability to travel to a library, the ability to take part in a summer camp or program or other learning opportunities will slide further.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, about two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower and higher-income students can be attributed to unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary years.

At Four Corners, more than 95 percent of the school’s 530 students are considered to be economically disadvantaged. About 60 percent of Salem-Keizer’s 42,000 students are considered to be living in poverty.

To address this, teachers at Four Corners balanced fun activities like field day while also utilizing the instructional time to work on final math and reading projects or on presentations and public speaking skills.

More on education: Salem-Keizer adopts 2017-2018 budget, Salem-Keizer approves $619.2 million bond proposal, Woodburn schools dramatically raise graduation rates

There was still plenty of time to celebrate. Forest Ridge Elementary School hosted a talent show, students at Myers got to smash pies in their teachers’ and peers’ faces, Weddle Elementary students learned how chocolate is made and then got to finger paint with chocolate pudding.

The fun continued at the middle schools with student v. staff basketball games at Stephens and Straub.

Maricruz Maciel, a parent at Four Corners, said the teachers appeared to be using the time to the students’ advantage.

“They lost (multiple) days,” she said. “It’s good they made up those days.”

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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