LOSD adjusts instructional hours
Lake Oswego School District staff announced on Friday that there will be additional adjustments to instructional hours to make up for time lost on "snow days."
Because of a glut of ice-and-snow storms that canceled LOSD classes in December and January, three days already were added back to the 2016-17 school year — with the School Board's approval — on Jan. 30. But then another day of inclement weather hit on Feb. 3, requiring more schedule adjustments in order to meet instructional-hour rules set by the state.
The new changes, announced in the district's newsletter and reported by The Review last week, include the elimination of two early release days for all schools and a host of other changes at the elementary level, including shorter lunch periods and recesses, earlier start times and no parent-teacher conference days in April.
Those revisions brought a flood of questions and criticism from parents via social media, phone calls and emails to The Review, the LOSD staff and the School Board. But only one person, local parent Dylan Pollock, spoke out at a School Board meeting Monday when LOSD Superintendent Heather Beck presented an update on the snow-day changes.
"A lot of people are frustrated that you took away the elementary recess time for elementary students," Pollock said.
LOSD staff explained the changes, and the reasoning behind them, to the School Board at the Monday meeting. Officials said 10 snow days — caused by frequent snow-and-ice storms over the past three months — may be a record, and that it's not easy to find additional instructional time halfway through the school year. (Students will have 30 minutes to eat lunch, and 5 minutes of 45 minutes of recess time is being converted to instructional time.)
"When was the last time we had 10 days? Eight years ago?" asked School Board member John Wendland.
"Never 10," replied Stuart Ketzler, the LOSD's executive director of finance.
Changes to the elementary school schedule are more extensive, staff explained, because there was a late start for secondary schools and no class for elementary students on Dec. 9. Because that day was different, elementary schools have lost a total of 10 days this year, but secondary schools have only lost nine.
Other key points Beck addressed on Monday night included the elimination of scheduled elementary school parent-teacher conferences this spring. Those days will be teaching days, and parents can make an appointment for a conference instead. Beck alluded briefly to some of the comments she received from parents and said that she couldn't please everyone, but she did want to ensure that students got as much class time as possible. For that reason, she said, conferences will simply be scheduled on a one-on-one basis.
"Our goal, of course, was to find as many minutes as we could put back in front of teachers and students," Beck said.
At the Jan. 30 board meeting, Beck said that because the state requires districts to take certain days off, such as Memorial Day, the LOSD's only other option this late in the year would be to add instructional days during spring break. Because that didn't seem like a desirable solution for families that have already made vacation plans, the district opted instead to make snips here and there and cut back on breaks by minutes.
School Board member Bob Barman said he valued the effort staff had made to initiate the changes after yet another school closure on Feb. 3.
"It is a wiggle and a squirm to make all of this happen," Barman said. "I understand that this is tough."
Beck explained during her presentation to board members Monday that they were not required to vote on the schedule changes this time. The Jan. 30 decision involved approving an adjustment to employees' schedule with the elimination of a holiday, Presidents Day. That's a contract adjustment, Beck said, which requires School Board approval after a discussion with the teachers and classified unions.
But the latest changes did not add any days to teachers' or staff's schedules, she said. Those changes are:
— For all schools: Thursday, May 18, and Thursday, June 8, will be regular school days for all students rather than early-release Thursdays.
For elementary schools only: 20 minutes of instruction will be added each day (beginning Feb. 15) in this way:
— Classroom instruction will begin at 9:05 a.m. instead of 9:10 a.m. Joe Morelock, LOSD's assistant superintendent for academics and student services, told The Review that buses already bring students to school by the first bell, so bus schedules won't have to be changed to get students to class on time.
— The lunch period and afternoon recess will be shortened by a total of 15 minutes.
— March 24 previously was an early dismissal day and now will be a regular school day for elementary students.
— April 6 and April 7 previously were elementary conference days and now will be regular school days for students. Principals will work with parents to schedule conferences with teachers, as necessary.
Before the closure this month required an additional schedule change, the School Board voted to add three days to the school calendar:
— Monday, February 20 (Presidents Day);
— Wednesday, June 14; and
— Thursday, June 15 (last day of school and early dismissal day).
The Oregon Department of Education requires a certain number of instructional hours. With the schedule adjustments, the LOSD is now within or above the required hours, which are:
— Grade 12: 966 hours,
— Grades 9-11: 990 hours,
— Grades 6-8: 900 hours and
— Grades K-5: 900 hours.