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Medford considers plan to return 6 days to school calendar

A year after the Medford School District slashed 10 days from its school calendar to cut spending, district officials are proposing a calendar that would restore six of those days.

Voters approved measures that helped stabilize state funding for schools, and the district's 12,000 pupils likely will attend classes for 170 days in 2010-11, Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long said.

The proposed school year would begin Sept. 7 and end June 10. Classes would be adjourned Nov. 25 and 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dec. 20 through Jan. 3 for the winter break and March 21 through 25 for the spring break.

Under the proposal, elementary pupils also would begin classes 10 minutes later — at 8 a.m. rather than 7:50 a.m.

School buses will continue to pick up and drop off students at the same times as this year. The later start will allow more time for students who eat breakfast in school to finish their meals, Long said.

Along with more secure state funding, the large number of students who eat meals at school played a role in the decision to increase the number of days in the school year, Long said.

"At the elementary level, 55 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch," Long said. "Every day that we don't have school often means some children have no breakfast. We know that in hard economic times that becomes more important. Feeding children isn't our main mission, but it's important for student learning."

An additional six days next year will cost the district an estimated $1.9 million, based on a cost of $320,000 per day, mostly for employee wages, Long said.

The proposed calendar also includes 10 Mondays, spread throughout the school year, when classes aren't in session, but teachers are planning, doing professional development or conducting teacher-parent conferences.

The Medford School Board will vote on the proposed calendar on April 20.

For 2009-2010, the school year was 164 days, compared to 174 days for 2008-2009. The district cut 10 days from the calendar to trim more than $1 million from its budget after the economic downturn reduced state tax revenue for school funding. Employees worked with the district to reduce their schedule and wages to avoid more layoffs or cutting instructional minutes. The shorter school year was offset by lengthening school days.

The passage of Ballot Measures 66 and 67 in January and a decision by the Legislature to release about $200 million from state reserves to education helped strengthen school districts' financial outlook for next year around the state.

The overall instructional time over the year could increase slightly under the proposal, although the district already exceeded the state requirement for instructional hours last year.

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