District might return to a five-day week
June 24, 2016
FINN ROCK: Discussions on the “Oregon Rising” survey supported by state educators generated some local talk last week. At the June 15th McKenzie School Board meeting superintendent Jim Thomas suggested people approach the questionnaire as if it was a clean slate.
“Think about what our schools should look like,” Thomas suggested. “What should they look like if we had all the resources available to us to provide the best education for all our kids?”
One item on his own wish list would be to find a way to create a high quality technical career education program. “We offer two periods of shop for our kids,” Thomas said. “That’s it (excluding the business courses we offer). That’s almost criminal.”
The survey is currently being circulated by the Oregon School Boards Association, the Confederation of School Administrators and the Oregon Education Association. Supporters say it is designed to answer a fundamental state-wide question: “What do we want Oregon schools to be for our children and grandchildren?”
In meetings with state legislators, Thomas said he’ll always ask why they don’t provide money for rural districts to hire career technical education teachers or help make it easier to hire local people with qualifying skills if a teacher can’t be found.
“You can provide all the money in the world for supplies, transportation and grants but that doesn’t do us any good if we can’t hire somebody to put the program in place,” he noted.
Focusing on existing instructional offerings, the superintendent asked the board to consider if there might be benefits in going back to a five-day school week. “Our instruction time is valuable. Are we giving kids enough time for instruction?” he said.
Board member Kathy Keable said she felt that sort of examination was overdue. “We went to it (the four-day week) for more classroom time because athletics was taking kids out of class,” Keable said. Asked if that had worked, she added that it didn’t, saying, “We’ve got kids who are out many more days than just Fridays.”
Thomas noted that football season isn’t the only factor, adding that basketball games can take students out of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“The reason we did it didn’t work out,” Keable felt. “I think it hurts us with attendance. It is something we as a district need to be looking at.”
While admitting it wouldn’t be practical to apply a change like that to next year’s operations, Thomas agreed. “Would it be better to go back?” he wondered, saying that costs would be a factor, particularly for the classified staff.
Besides possible scheduling changes, the board also thought about some wish list items they’d like if funding wasn’t an issue. Among the items brought up were adding back things like driver’s education, swimming instruction, a high school outdoor school and a possibly creating an endowment.
Thomas said the last item might receive support from the sale of some district owned property. Interest generated by the endowment, he said, could be applied to things like computer replacements or after school programs.
McKenzie River Reflections