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Letters, Feb. 9

Time for year-round schools

If there’s one good thing learned from the last year, it’s that teaching is more than a trivial activity. Even today, the resounding call for schools to reopen emphasizes that professional education is valuable. Stories of parents with two or three children learning at home can remind us of the skill necessary to keep 25 second-graders on task, let alone keeping 15 ninth-graders learning about American democracy.

In the middle of a botched COVID vaccine rollout, too many people are calling for the return of students to in-school classes. Please don’t forget teachers are part of this equation. Let’s not forget that teachers in Oregon are on the low end of the national pay scale. Also, recall that Oregon’s 170-day school year is below the expectations of most high-performing states.

Most residents of Ashland probably aren’t aware of health insurance plans for school teachers, let alone life-insurance availability and school system liability should a teacher or school staff member contract COVID while on the job. Please, let’s not be negligent by ignoring these parts of a teacher’s day-to-day life.

And in the rush to get children back in school (and out of their parents’ hair), it’s time to examine whether the 1912 agricultural model for American schools is still viable. Three-month summer vacations look good, but result in less than desirable educational results.

Some of the hybrid in-school attendance suggestions are doubling up the workload on teachers. Having one-half of students in a classroom and the other half online means an instructor has twice as much work. As best I can tell, there are no incentives for teachers to take on this extra workload. While looking at schooling possibilities, let’s also think about paying teachers what they’re worth.

Educational leaders in Southern Oregon need to examine the possibility of year-round schools, with three or four weeks between the usual 45-day instructional quarters. Innovative instructional leaders need to consider increasing on-task instruction for students from 1,000 hours a year in a 170-day school year to 1,500 hours.

The cost of holding abbreviated summer school sessions won’t be trivial. Some teachers won’t accept increased student contact time even with a 50% increase in salary.

Regardless of these many problems in resuming a “normal” school experience, it is time to examine what’s required to have students regain the learning they might have lost in the pandemic quarantine. Rather than return to an antiquated education model, developing new methods of schooling are in order.

James Jarrard


Enhance your role

I believe the role of the Fourth Estate is to bring us informed, accurate information about our world and events. When truth and facts are not agreed upon, there is no civil discourse nor civil society, particularly when some use false information, false facts and act to prevent common understanding, common good, and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Please enhance your Fourth Estate role by pointing to and calling out factual errors, misstatements, mischaracterizations and opinions expressed as fact. Do this in news coverage, opinion pieces and reporting by others carried in your publications.

I suggest that for your readers you adopt some form of notations or footnotes with explanations such as:

1. Not factual

2. Misinformation

3. Mischaracterization

4. Opinion represented as fact

The public will assist you in this effort by pointing out non-facts, etc.

If you do this for stories you carry from other news sources, opinion pieces you carry by contract, and your own reporting, you will serve the common good and journalism’s highest calling.

Others may disagree with your assessments, but that could provide a useful forum for civil discourse in our public square, as well as sell more papers.”

Ken Engelund


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