The Medford School District announced Thursday it won't cut any days from this school year after the Oregon House passed a bill funneling $51 million in federal stimulus funds into public schools.
"This way we won't have to disrupt our instructional program," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long. "We've had parents very interested in this, and people were very concerned about what they would do about child care and what they would have to do if school was closed."
Some Jackson County school districts such as Eagle Point and Phoenix-Talent said they still may have to eliminate school days in spite of an infusion of $51 million in federal stimulus funds to Oregon public schools.
The stimulus funds are expected to spare a few days from being chopped off the calendar, district officials said.
"We think it'll be about four days," said Dan Zaklan, finance director in the Eagle Point School District. The district previously had anticipated having to cut 10 to 12 days.
The Phoenix-Talent schools' business manager had not yet calculated how exactly the stimulus funds would affect that district.
"It will give us more latitude," said business manager Doug Spani.
Officials with the Ashland and Central Point districts were not available for comment on the school-funding measure.
Butte Falls, Rogue River and Prospect had not been considering cutting any days.
The $51 million School Day Restoration Fund was part of legislation passed Thursday balancing the state's overall $855 million budget shortfall caused by the state's deepening recession.
The Oregon Senate passed the bill earlier this week. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is expected to sign it into law next week.
Public schools had been facing a shortfall of $105 million in state revenue after the Feb. 20 state revenue forecast. At that time, the Medford district projected it would have to cut more than 13 days. Schools across the state already had trimmed expenses to cover an estimated $63 million deficit in late 2008.
The federal stimulus funds, along with Medford's cost-cutting measures and use of its reserve fund, allow the district to avoid eliminating school days, Long said.
The Medford district's share of the federal stimulus funds is about $4.4 million, Long said. To cover its overall $7.3 million deficit this year, the district also has reduced $1.3 million in costs by scrimping on materials and supplies, reducing pay and leaving posts unfilled, and it has withdrawn about $1.6 million from its reserve fund.
"I'm not surprised the district won't have to cut school days because the district has such a strong financial department," said Katie Tso, a Hoover Elementary parent and member of Stand for Children education advocacy group. "I just feel bad for the people who have had to experience this roller coaster of emotions while facing the possible loss of income."
Other parents had complained that slashing school days would weaken the state's public school system, which already has one of the briefest school years in the nation.
The stimulus funds provide a temporary reprieve for schools this year, but next school year still appears dire, Long said. The state is expecting a reduction of about $3 billion in revenue in the next biennium.
The Medford district could face state funding reductions of $8 million to $10 million in 2009-10 alone, Long said.
"We recognize the economic downturn means some tough choices for all of us, especially as we plan for the coming school year," Medford School Board Chairman Eric Dziura said in a statement. "Having this immediate crisis averted will allow us all to work on preparations for the tight times ahead."
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.