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A fresh start

Eagle Point's new superintendent gets an 'A' for on-time school year

Like many school districts, Eagle Point will cut staff in the coming year. It may trim days from its calendar. It plans to close an elementary school.

In our book, that's all the more reason for the district to stick to routine where it can. And one place it clearly can is in starting the school year on time.

Bill Feusahrens, who replaced Bill Jones as district superintendent, made that one of his first pitches to the board, which had planned to cut 20 days at the beginning of the school year and start classes at the end of September.

Feusahrens told the board on Thursday the district should instead start on time, an attempt at bringing some sort of normalcy to the district, and the board gave him the go-ahead.

Normalcy has been hard to come by in Eagle Point this year. Like districts around Oregon, it is having trouble making ends meet. The board in May approved a budget of &

36;24.4 million, about &

36;7 million less than administrators had hoped they would have in the coming year. They agreed to cut 18 teachers from the staff, shorten the school year by 20 days and close Glenn D. Hale Elementary School.

— Eagle Point administrators, of course, don't know yet whether those measures will actually be necessary. Because the Legislature remains in the midst of debating money, all districts had to guess to finalize the budgets for the fiscal year that started Tuesday.

Eagle Point's guess used the number legislators are calling a worst-case scenario, the lowest amount of aid the state would offer. Signs are the budget won't be as bad as that and Eagle Point won't have to cut 20 days, a drastic step.

Here's the other thing: Eagle Point parents and kids have been through the wringer this year, even aside from the budget issues.

The district lost its middle school to fire last fall, and middle school students had to be crowded into a double-shifted high school for the year. The district announced in the spring that it needed to shift nearly 100 students into White City schools to relieve crowding. The plan was highly unpopular with parents.

There's no way for the district to avoid some turmoil as it resolves problems it's been handed, but it should keep life as normal as possible for students. One obvious way to do that is to let them start school at the usual time.

Flood of support A thanks is due to the Medford Water Commission for reassuring us that our public officials do in fact have the public's best interests at heart. The commission member proved that by agreeing to cover damage costs suffered by homeowners when a water main burst.

The burst main sent a mini-flood into several homes near the intersection of Crater Lake Avenue and Covina Avenue, putting parts of those homes under water. The residents' initial discomfort was aggravated when they were informed the commission's insurance company would not pay for repairs and water commission representatives said they were basically out of luck.

The accident came out of the blue, with no work being done on the water main at the time of the break. For that reason, attorneys felt they would be protected by act of God language in their insurance coverage.

But commission members recognized that while they may have prevailed in a court of law, they still had a responsibility to aid the homeowners. These are taxpaying citizens and customers who deserve fair treatment from government agencies that could easily run over them with attorneys and technical experts.

The commission took heat over the initial response, including some from this newspaper. But it turns out they were changing insurance companies and that many members planned all along to support payments to the residents. When they met Wednesday, they did just that.

And in doing so, did the right thing.