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Medford schools to start early in 2021-22

Board approves calendar that includes first day on Aug. 23
School, backpack, educational.

Medford students will start the 2021-22 school year two weeks earlier than the year before and will have an extra week of school overall during the academic year as the school board during its April 8 meeting adopted a calendar with an eye toward post-pandemic recovery.

The first day of school is set for Aug. 23 and the last day June 9, with June 10, 13 and 14 reserved as snow make-up days. Previous first days were Sept. 8 in 2020, Aug. 26 in 2019 and Aug. 27 in 2018.

On Wednesday, less than a week after the calendar was unanimously approved by the board, Medford Superintendent Bret Champion said the extra week would benefit the students and allow the district more time to analyze the impact of the pandemic on education through the use of iReady assessments.

“It may not be in that first week,” he said of the assessments, “but it will allow for us to build in a window for some assessments because we do need to assess where are our kids. There have been kids who have flourished under Comprehensive Distance Learning. A lot more have struggled. So we need to know where they are.”

The first in-service days on the calendar are Aug. 16-20, with the first day of school immediately following that weekend. Students will have been in school nearly two weeks before the four-day Labor Day weekend Sept. 3-6.

Students will be off Dec. 20 through Jan. 2 for winter break and March 21 through March 25 for spring break. The calendar includes 12 “holiday/non-contract” days, and school board meetings will continue to be held the first and third Thursday of each month except in January, which includes one meeting on Jan. 13.

Addressing the calendar during the board meeting, Champion indicated there were concerns raised about the early start but said a little push-back was to be expected.

“Totally understand,” he said. “We will work with folks to make sure we’re accommodating because we’ve got to remember why we’re doing this and for whom. Specifically, it is for the students, who have suffered some real learning loss here and … those additional days are for relationship building and for assessments.”

More emails questioning the move are sure to come, Champion added, but that’s part of the process.

“This is what student-centered looks like whenever we make a decision that makes the most sense for our students,” he said, “particularly those who need some additional time with our outstanding staff.”

School board member Jim Horner said his first reaction upon reading one letter in particular that questioned the move was to consider what the district could do to help that family. But, he went on, since the schedule seems to be what’s best for most Medford students, it should remain intact.

“If … the vast majority of the school is receiving benefit and it’s, as you say, in line with the basic philosophy and we can do some work with the individual, it seems like about as good as we can do,” Horner said. “We can’t have everybody perfectly happy.”

Since the schedule will essentially snip the tail off summer vacation, more complaints are likely on the way as the move becomes more public. But some may fall on the side of adding more school days, Champion said.

“I’ve had informal conversations with some staff members who were concerned because they have some prearranged things that were rolling,” he said. “Had other folks who were like, ‘Is that all we’re going to add? Can we add more? How much more can we add?’ Which is fair. And so it’s been a mixed bag.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.