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Medford students may labor earlier

The Medford School Board will vote in January on a proposal to start and end school a week earlier next year.

Superintendent Brian Shumate asked the board to vote on the new calendar at its next regular meeting, scheduled for Jan. 8, after he presented results of community surveys on the topic at the board's Dec. 4 work session. The proposed changes to the school calendar were supported by a majority of those polled.

The proposal would shift the Medford school year, starting in 2018-19, to begin in the last week of August, with four school days falling before Labor Day weekend. Students would finish school after the first week of June. The calendar would include 175 instructional days, the same number as this year.

Shumate said at the work session the district has pitched the idea to parents before, and this year saw the most interest so far. District spokeswoman Natalie Hurd said responses to a recent survey were double the previous year's number.

Based on these results, "people are into it," Shumate said.

Parents were asked to take the survey while attending parent-teacher conferences during the week of Thanksgiving. The district also made it available to students and teachers via emails, as well as through an announcement on its website and in social media call-outs. The survey included two questions and room for comments; the district received 2,388 responses for the first question, which asked respondents to identify their level of support for the calendar changes.

The results showed more than half favored the change. A combined 54 percent of respondents said they fully supported moving to the new schedule or thought it was a good idea. Another 11 percent of respondents were neither for nor against the change, while 10.5 percent said they were against the idea but wouldn't actively fight it, and 21.3 percent thought it was a bad idea that they would "have difficulty supporting."

The second question asked whether respondents would prefer the changes to be implemented in the 2018-19 school year or 2019-20. More than 80 percent of those who responded voted in favor of the calendar being adopted in the next school year.

School Board members didn't offer any strong opinions after hearing the results Monday night, but agreed the issue should be put to a vote in the new year. They also asked what reasons people had cited for not supporting the schedule change. Shumate said family time being interrupted around Labor Day was a common concern.

Hurd said teachers may also feel more squeezed in the first year by the week of summer lost during the transition if the change happens.

"For staff, it might be a transition for some, because we would be ending at the normal time this year but then starting at the new time next year," she said.

Overall, Hurd said, most of the 19 pages of comments received were favorable.

 "We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback," she said. "I think the majority of families are interested in ending the year a little earlier."

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or ktornay@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ka_tornay.

Medford students may labor earlier