THS, Middle Schools Exploring Schedule Change

THS, Middle Schools Exploring Schedule Change
Posted on 12/02/2021

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Maple View Middle School and Summit Trail Middle School are exploring the possibility of shortening our early release Fridays by 30 minutes each in a way that does not shorten in-class instruction. This change would impact Tahoma High School students who ride the bus home on Fridays. Instead of eating lunch on campus, middle school students would be provided grab-and-go lunches to take home at the end of the day. At the high school, bus riders currently have 30 minutes after the last bell to eat lunch before getting on the bus. This change would mean they would instead be provided grab-and-go lunches and they would leave campus 30 minutes earlier (when most non-bus riders leave). This shift provides equal-length class periods on those days, without any loss in instructional time. The challenges this could present center around transportation, providing grab-and-go lunches instead of a traditional lunch to the high school students who ride the bus home, and families who may struggle to accommodate the 30-minute change in their Friday work schedules.

Our thinking around this idea is just getting started, and because this shift would affect our students, their families and Tahoma staff, we have a process that invites input from each of these groups first to inform our decision making.  

Learn more and share your thoughts:

Next Thursday, Dec. 9, we will be hosting an interactive virtual webinar at 6:30 PM. All families of middle school students and potentially affected high school students, as well as an interested Tahoma staff, are encouraged to attend. This will be an informational presentation where we’ll share the benefits of this change, and also make our Tahoma family aware of the trade-offs that this would present.  During the presentation, the audience will have the opportunity to weigh in through a survey tool, allowing us to gather participant input on specific questions.  

Sign up now to participate in this interactive webinar and provide your input.  You will get reminders both 1 day and 1 hour prior to the webinar.

The following day, Friday, Dec. 10, we will be delivering an online survey to all middle school families and staff, as well as high school families whose students would be affected by this. 

We know this is an especially busy time of year for so many families so our survey will remain open through January 5, 2022. Again - we have not made any decisions about a schedule change, and your input will be very valuable in helping us determine if a change is what’s best for our students, families and staff.

If you have questions, please reference the Q&A below or reach out to Bill Weis (


Q: Why was this schedule change proposed?

A: There are three primary advantages to this change which is intended to primarily benefit over 2,000 middle school students and would provide important support for our middle school staff:

1. Safe lunch periods: Operationalizing three COVID-safe lunches on a compact Friday schedule is currently a significant challenge for our middle school support staff.
COVID-19 and Contact Tracing: Due to COVID-19 and current contact tracing requirements from the Washington State Dept. of Health, it is advantageous to have students in the cafeteria for less time. Rather than continuing to operate three middle school lunches during an already shortened day, this would allow students to get on the bus sooner and still be provided their lunch.

3. Class periods: There are current inequities in our middle school class periods on early release days. In order to accommodate the lunch schedule, one class period is 17 minutes longer than others, which doesn’t allow for equal learning time or planning periods for teachers.


Q: If this change occurs, when would the new early release schedule begin? Will you return to the current schedule after COVID restrictions are lifted?

A: There would not be any changes at the start of the new calendar year, but the shift would happen this school year, possibly at semester. We need to evaluate the input from our stakeholders to inform our decision making.

While COVID-19 was an important factor in developing this idea, the class period inequities and needed staff support mentioned above are expected to continue in a “normal” school year. If this change was implemented, we would continue to listen to our students and community and continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the change before determining if this is a long-term solution.

Q: What are the potential drawbacks to this proposed change?

A: There are three key concerns that we’ve identified at this time:

1. Transportation and food: By providing grab-and-go meals, students are more susceptible to removing their masks on the bus to eat. More food on the bus also means more messes. We need to determine whether students can be expected to keep their food in their bags until they are dropped off.
High school bus riders: Currently, these students have 30 minutes to unwind, eat their lunch in the THS commons, and converse with their friends before heading home for the weekend. There are approx. 400 high school students who this would affect, and we want to know their thoughts about leaving campus earlier with a pre-packaged meal.
Adjusted schedules for families: We realize a 30-minute shift could be significant for some families’ Friday schedules. We want to know how impactful the time change would be for parents/guardians.


Q: Can the middle school change their schedule but the high school keep their current schedule?

A: Because of our bus drivers’ schedules, and considering that a number of bus routes include both high school and middle school students, the change would need to be consistent for all grades 6-12.

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