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School Board cuts spring break in half

Teachers concerned over students' lack of focus after a two-week spring break persuaded the Medford School Board to cut the break in half next year.

"We had teachers contact us with concerns about a two-week spring break and how difficult it was to get kids back on track so close to the end of the year," Board Chairman Jeff Thomas said.

Board member Sally Killen said she didn't like that kids were getting two weeks off right before their Advanced Placement exams and state assessments in May. She also was concerned for parents who had to find child care for their kids for an extra week and for the kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch but couldn't access the meals the schools provided during spring break.

"A lot of kids aren't at walking schools, like Roosevelt, and don't have a way to get to the school since the bus service is shut down for those two weeks," she said.

Nance Louise, a North Medford High School art teacher, asked the board at its April 21 meeting to consider returning to a traditional, one-week spring break.

"If you look at our school calendar, what you want is consistency with our kids," she said Wednesday. "What you don't want is big gaps.

"Every time students have a break, whether they are coming back in the fall, after winter break or after spring break, you have to work with them to help them land back in school and in that learning mind-set," she said.

Superintendent Phil Long said the two-week spring break was originally the consequence of teacher furlough days, which the district landed the week after spring break in 2012-13. These furlough days also had to be accounted for in the 2013-14 calendar while the district and teachers negotiated the current contract, which doesn't include furlough days.

As a result, the 2013-14 school year was extended later into June to compensate for the two-week spring break.

The Phoenix-Talent School District also gave its students two weeks, while Ashland, Eagle Point and Central Point school districts kept spring break to one.

Last year, North Medford High School devoted the second week of its spring break to providing support to seniors who needed to make up missed coursework or earn credits to graduate. The spring break interventions were a success and this year were offered at North, South and Central Medford high schools, both middle schools and Jacksonville Elementary.

Todd Bloomquist, director of secondary education, said the district still plans to offer these intervention programs to students who need additional support, if not during spring break, then some other time during the school year.

"Whatever the schedule is, we will work with that and continue to offer interventions because they seem to be working," he said.

According to the new 2014-15 calendar approved by the board, school will begin Tuesday, Sept. 2, and end Friday, June 5. Spring break will be March 23-27.

Students will have a two-week winter break starting Dec. 22.

The approved calendar has 175 instructional days, three more than this year, five more than students had in 2012-13 and nine more than the current state average of 166 school days, district officials said.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.