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Kids Unlimited-White City pushes for formalizing full year calendar

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFirst grade teacher Melinda Koch hands out worksheets Tuesday to students at Kids Unlimited Academy in White City.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFirst grade teacher Melinda Koch teaches Tuesday at Kids Unlimited Academy in White City.
The Academy is already implementing instruction and services all months of the year, but it hasn’t yet been approved by the Eagle Point School Board

The Eagle Point School Board will consider Wednesday night whether to formally recognize the full-year calendar and amend the four-year contract for Kids Unlimited Academy’s charter school in White City.

The Academy — a nonprofit institution primarily for underserved and low-income youth — is in its second year of implementing 188 days of instruction during all months of the year at its campuses in Eagle Point and Medford. That year-round calendar is in contrast to the commonplace concept of schools getting the summer off.

Kids Unlimited CEO Tom Cole told the Mail Tribune that Academy officials hoped the proposal to formalize the calendar would play “piggyback” to the school’s annual report, made at an Eagle Point School Board meeting recently. The vote from the board on whether to accept the calendar and modified contract did not come at that same time — but it’s imminent now.

“It’s hard for me to forecast what the expectation for the board would be, but I will say this about the Eagle Point School Board: they have been very responsive and very engaged in creating this collaboration,” Cole said. “My hope is that this is just part of the continuance of what’s already become a really collaborative and meaningful partnership and something that I think is going to be much more significant as we grow our efforts out in White City.”

He was referring to the likely expansion of the White City campus, which serves preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders. But that project will not be before the school board Wednesday.

Instead, it will consider accepting the full-year calendar, meant to address the achievement gap among the Academy’s students and reduce the learning lost during the “summer slide,” Cole stated in a letter to the board. The new calendar was “studied, vetted and unanimously approved” by the Academy’s White City board in the spring of 2021, the letter went on to say.

In an interview, Cole expanded on the reasons why the White City campus changed its instructional calendar.

“We believe — and the data is very validating to this — that kids everywhere are struggling as a result of lost learning during the pandemic,” Cole said. “The reality is that those who comprise what we know in education to be deemed as ‘the achievement gap’ community, have only struggled even more.”

With that in mind, the Academy could not “be complacent” with its students, who were falling behind academically, according to Cole.

“That was our motivation behind the Kids Unlimited Academy boards to say, ‘What can we do to improve that?’” he said. “This was one of our solutions.”

Aside from helping the Academy’s students, Cole hopes the formalization of the full-year calendar puts his charter school one step closer to allowing for greater autonomy of services the Eagle Point School District controls.

“It allows the district to then sort of recalibrate or retool what they believe might be the ways that they can extend services to the best of their ability,” Cole said. “Our hope, just as Medford has demonstrated, is to help us by modifying some of those resources to the best of their ability to accommodate our goal to increase learning times without it changing, let’s say, the overall contractual structure that exists for hundreds, if not thousands, of employees in big districts.”

The board will also consider Wednesday amending the language of the current contract between the district and the Academy. Kids Unlimited requests that the board make some edits, including removing some language irrelevant to the school’s current situation and making some additions that acknowledge the calendar will be in full effect until at least 2025.

Eagle Point School Board Chairwoman Emily McIntire did not want to comment too much ahead of the board’s meeting, but she noted she envisioned the board approving the extended calendar. At issue, however, might be amendments to the contract.

“If we choose to amend, then KUA wouldn't have to come back next year and ask for another approval. If we choose not to amend, then they will have to repeat this process again until the end of their contract,” McIntire wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Either way, I know that the EPSD9 Board wants what's best for kids, and whichever decision is made on Wednesday that is always in the forefront of our minds.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.