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Ashland K-12 teachers to get additional time off

School board approves five new days off in 2022 for teacher “preparation” and “relief”

Educators in the Ashland School District will get several more days off this school year to not only plan, but to rest due to the strains placed on them through staffing shortages and the pandemic.

In 2022, they will get Jan. 3, Feb. 22, March 14, April 15 and May 9 off, with three of those days designated for “educator preparation” and two in February and May intended for “wellness and relief,” according to a news release from the district. The school board made the changes to the academic calendar at a Dec. 13 meeting.

Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove told the Mail Tribune the board made “the right decision” in following the administration’s recommendation to provide additional days off.

“We know that the demands on all education staff has really been pretty significantly impacted the last couple of years, to the extent that some of our staff have not been able to take personal leave time,” Bogdanove said. “Yet, they’re showing up everyday (and) they’re making things work for kids.”

Educator preparation days allow for teachers to plan their lessons during the work week, as opposed to weekends or holidays, which has become the norm for the way many teachers work, Bogdanove noted.

“One of the things that our teachers need is just time to plan,” he said. “So, let’s call it a planning day and make sure we can create that time in their workweek to do the extra planning that teaching is really requiring.”

Wellness and relief days, on the other hand, are times when the teachers are expected to “take care of themselves.”

“Our hope is that they really take those days to rest,” Bogdanove said. “In order to take care of others, you really have to take care of your own wellness, too.”

The superintendent noted that it was possible for the school board to approve the additional days off because Ashland schools are above the instructional hours required by the state.

“Districts have different calendars, and instructional time is based on their calendars and schedules,” Bogdanove wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Consideration of relief days is dependent on their ability to otherwise meet the instructional hours requirement as well as other local factors.”

Without the current number of instructional hours, the decision for more days off this year would not have been possible, the superintendent noted.

The district’s news release announcing new days off included detailed reasoning on the factors administrators considered before taking their request to the school board.

“Staff wellness has been significantly impacted by the increased demands of schooling through a pandemic and staffing shortages at all levels of the organization,” the release stated.

Those staffing shortages — much like what is occurring throughout the state and country — also include classroom staff, substitute teachers, transportation, custodial and “other critical areas.” As a result, educators have been given additional work loads and “in some cases” they were denied personal leave time.

Because of the pandemic and hybrid learning, educators in Ashland have had to conduct instruction “that meets a huge range of student needs” while at the same time “providing more intensive social emotional and behavioral supports,” according to the release.

Bogdanove said the pandemic and the staffing shortages are of equal importance when it comes to the administration’s recommendation to the school board to provide teachers with additional days off.

“They both have an impact on staff workload and our ability to respond to kids and to make sure we’re keeping schools open,” he said. “To do that, we’ve got to keep the staff well and give them adequate time to do their job. It was a challenging decision to get to, particularly in this school year.”

To meet the needs of students and families during the new days off in the current school year, the district is working with organizations like the local YMCA and the ScienceWorks museum to provide child care.

“For families that can’t afford some of the child care options available in the community, there will be ways to cover those fees for them,” Bogdanove said.

He urged parents to contact their child’s school for more information on “scholarships” available for day care costs as well as any other questions related to the board’s decision.

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