ATHENA — District officials recently voted to institute a delayed start on Fridays for the upcoming school year and likely beyond, Superintendent Laure Quaresma said.

Each school will begin later on those days to allow teachers time for in-district professional development, something surrounding school districts implemented several years ago, Quaresma said.

That means change for families, including finding child care for many, something that is always hard to ask for, she said.

Researching the right time for training, information exchanges, curriculum assessments and discussions about students meant looking at data, other districts and staff schedules. In a district as small as Athena-Weston, having one person miss out can mean a whole department is not able to participate.

“In the end, it came down to when people are available,” Quaresma said. “The end of the day, with people coaching, is really a rough time to have everybody in one place.”

A typical work day for educators at Athena-Weston is filled with working or preparing for specific classes or helping individual students. That leaves no time to learn about things such as education trends and research results, or from each other, the superintendent said.

The lack of focused time was hammered home when two of the district’s teachers were chosen to participate in a statewide collaborative learning project that featured one-hour video meetings. Those allowed teachers from all around the state to tweak lessons based on common experiences and build learning units, Quaresma said this week.

“And being in a small district, our teachers didn’t have time for that.”

Some nearby districts, including Pendleton and Milton-Freewater, have early-release days that give teachers a couple of hours or more each week for development, but until now Athena-Weston has had zero time for the topic outside of infrequent in-service days scheduled during the school year, she said.

“And this year, our days set aside got eaten up by snow days.”

By announcing the change early in the summer, the district is trying to give parents as much planning time as possible, officials said.

In other communities, agencies such as public libraries have stepped in to offer programs for kids when school is out, and families have helped each other out, Quaresma said.

“It is a change, and that always brings challenges, we understand that. But we, too, have challenges. And we expect to have greater success in learning together.”

To view the upcoming Friday start and breakfast times for Athena Elementary, Weston Middle and Weston-McEwen High schools, go to


Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.

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