With a week of winter left and memories of last year’s spring blizzard still fresh in their minds, Oregon School District officials were perhaps tempting fate Monday night as they discussed options to make up three missed days.
After consulting with parents, educators and board members during the past few weeks, district administrators planned to choose one of three options by Wednesday night, district superintendent Brian Busler said.
The district has missed six school days from inclement weather so far this year, blowing right past the three built-in days it had set aside. According to Wisconsin law, OSD needs to provide 1,137 hours of classes for grades 7-12, so three of those days – or equivalent minutes – must be made up, district corporate counsel and human resources director Jina Jonen told board members.
The last day of class for graduating seniors will remain Friday, June 8, she said.
For all other students, classes would have ended in a half day Wednesday, June 12, but those hopes went out the window with the extreme cold and snow that hit the area from the last week of January through the first few weeks of February. Now, the district will choose between three options that would all see the schools days extended starting April 1.
The first option would be to extend the school year to a half-day on Friday, June 14, and starting April 1, add five minutes to the start and the end of the school day. Jonen said the positive about this option is being able to have make-up exams later on the June 14.
The second option – preferred by Busler – would be to extend school to a full day on Thursday, June 13, leaving all day Friday for OHS make-up exams, and add five minutes at the start and seven minutes at the end of the school days starting April 1.
The third option is to make Wednesday, June 12, a full day, with Thursday, June 13, set aside for OHS make-up exams. Starting April 1, school would start five minutes earlier, but extend 15 minutes at the end of the day.
Jonen said the advantages of this option would be that school would end the same as planned in the calendar, meaning “less conflict for families,” and staff would also get to keep a planned professional development day on June 13.
Busler said after talking with teachers, the feedback seems evenly split. He said he’s been a “bit surprised” from the lack of feedback from parents, but said it’s “mostly been positive,” citing comments from parents at a recent event at Prairie View Elementary School.
“The vast majority said, ‘We know we have to make up school, this has been a bizarre winter, just make the best decision possible,’” Busler said.
Busler said adding 21 minutes at the end of the day would be a “big deal” for elementary school students. He said the “sweet spot” of the three options, adding 12 minutes to each day and 1.5 days in the final week would be good for the high school.
“That still gets us out before Friday, which allows (principal) Jim (Pliner) at the high school time have make-up exams Friday morning.”
No matter what option is chosen, the bus times would need to change to accommodate the early start and late release times from April through the end of the year.
Busler said if families already have plans made for June 13-14, the district would excuse those absences.
“Parents always have that right,” he said.
Board members didn’t have much preference for the options, although Troy Pankratz said he liked the second option as a “middle of the road” choice. Dan Krause said he’d just as soon add extra minutes rather than extra days, and let the school year end on the scheduled day.
“I’ve always been of the opinions that the last days of school are a waste as far as educationally,” he said. “People’s minds aren’t there. I’d be surprised if having extra days would really result in extra education any more than having extra minutes would.”
Board president Steve Zach said he believes it’s an “operational decision” for administrators to determine.
“You know how it plays into the running of the school in terms of which one of three you would pick,” he said.
Jonen said if the district needs to cancel another day yet this year, it will likely change a planned professional development day on Monday, April 22. She said it’s a “plan B” option district officials hope they don’t have to use, as it’s scheduled to be about equity.
“We felt that opportunity and our commitment to professional development in terms of the educator compensation system, we would look at as holding that day,” she said.