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Medford school days cut

Board blames Legislature for failing to provide adequately for education

To help plug a &

36;4 million budget hole created by state revenue shortfalls, the Medford School Board on Tuesday agreed to slash 10 days from the school year.

But before casting their votes, school board members blasted the Legislature for failing to secure educational funding and forcing districts across the state to cut days to balance budgets.

I'm embarrassed to be an Oregonian, said board member Joe Frodsham. It is with total regret and total embarrassment that we have to adopt this program, with all the resources we have in this state.

It's pathetic that we have to do this, added board chairman Mike Moran.

The Medford School District ' which has an &

36;82.5 million general operating budget ' will cut nine instructional days between now and June. The 10th slashed day is an in-service day, one when classes aren't scheduled but district employees still work.

The decision will save the district &

36;2.5 million. The average daily payroll for the Medford district is &

36;250,000.

Medford school officials have said they will fill the remaining gap in the budget by using cash carried over from 2001-02, savings generated from belt-tightening this year and, if the school board approves at a later date, using &

36;72,702 from its &

36;950,000 contingency fund.

Superintendent Steve Wisely on Tuesday said Medford schools will close on March 10, 20, 21; April 4, 7, 18, 21; and May 2 and 5. All cut days fall on Mondays or Fridays. District employees won't work on the June 10 in-service day.

Before making its decision, the school board reviewed a survey that included responses from more than 4,000 parents. The majority of parents (1,646) preferred the board to close school on Mondays while 1,483 parents requested Fridays. Five hundred and fifty-nine parents asked the district to slash days on both Monday and Friday, while the remaining participants chose various combinations of other days.

Medford is the fifth district to cut days in Jackson County since voters rejected Measure 28. Rogue River and Eagle Point school districts voted to cut 10 days from the school year. Ashland has cut eight and Central Point five.

The Phoenix-Talent school board is expected to shorten its year by 10 school days at a meeting Thursday night.

During Tuesday's meeting, Medford resident Gary Ferguson wanted to know how the board's decision to cut days would affect his son, who is a high school senior.

Will he receive a full diploma or a modified diploma? Ferguson asked.

But state and local officials have said cutting school days for one year won't prevent kids from graduating.

Board members on Tuesday agreed that the decision to cut was painful, but added that it was the only alternative open to schools across the state. Nearly 100 of Oregon's 198 school districts have slashed days since January.

When push comes to shove, here we are, said board member Lois Thorston. I get emotional. It makes me very sad.

Reach reporter Jill Briskey at 776-4485, or e-mail Phoenix Board votes Thursday

PHOENIX ' Facing a deficit in its own budget, the Phoenix-Talent School District board is scheduled to vote on Thursday to cut 10 days from the school year.

The district on Tuesday had not announced what days will be cut.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Phoenix Elementary School, and the public is invited to attend.