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The new math: Shorter calendar won't decrease teaching

Despite a shorter school year for 2009-10 in the Medford School District, annual instructional hours actually will increase for elementary pupils and remain about the same for high school students because school days will be longer, district officials said.

Middle school students will see a slight decline in instructional hours but still exceed the minimum state requirement, officials said.

The district of nearly 12,000 students recently finalized the school hours, the last piece of a calendar revision designed to pare down operational costs and preserve instructional time.

Students begin classes Sept. 8.

Elementary school days will be 10 minutes longer than last year, while secondary school days will increase by 20 minutes. One-hour early release on Wednesdays and two-hour early release at the end of mid-quarter and quarter has been eliminated.

"Even though our school year is shorter, we actually increased instructional minutes (at the elementary level) by ending early release," said Rich Miles, Medford schools elementary education director.

Elementary hours for the year increased to 847, up from 819 last year in grades 1-3. In grades 4-6, instructional hours will climb to 929, up from 908 last year, Miles said.

Elementary students will begin classes at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m., an increase of 10 instructional minutes per day.

Class times are 8:35 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Hedrick Middle School; 8:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at McLoughlin Middle School; and 8:35 a.m. to 3:56 p.m. at North and South Medford high schools.

Students at all grade levels exceed the minimum instructional hours required by the state, set at 810 hours for grades 1-3, 900 hours for grades 4-8 and 990 hours for grades 9-12.

The district also fit in more instructional time by eliminating one-hour early release on Wednesdays and two-hour early release at the end of the quarter and the mid-quarter, Miles said.

"Every day we are in school this year is a full day," Miles said.

In June, the Medford School Board decreased the school year from 174 days to 164. The school year begins Sept. 8 and ends June 11.

To preserve instructional time and still cut costs, teachers agreed to a 2.5-percent pay cut, and support staff also made concessions on paid time off.

Teachers will work 185 days instead of 190.

The calendar changes are expected to save the district about $1 million during the school year in salaries and transportation and utility expenses.

In all, students will have 18 five-day weeks and 16 four-day weeks during the school year, plus two three-day weeks for in November.

Thanksgiving break is Nov. 26 and 27, and winter break will be Dec. 21 through Jan. 4. Spring break is set for March 22 through 29. Due to the reduction of teacher contract days, schools are closed Monday, Oct. 5, Monday, Nov. 30, Monday, Jan. 4, Monday, March 1, and Monday, April 26.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.