OSD: Mixed messages on balanced calendar

Task force wants more information
By: 
Scott De Laruelle

Find out more
There are four versions of balanced calendars for people to view on the district website. For more district information on the balanced calendar task force, visit balancedcalendar.blogspot.com or email balanced.calendar@oregonsd.net.

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One year after a school board task force began studying a “balanced calendar” for Netherwood Knoll Elementary School, it has recommended spreading the idea even wider.

That despite an apparent lack of support from district parents and even its own study.

On Monday, the task force presented a summary of its findings to the school board, suggesting that despite a solid majority of district parents being opposed to the idea of a balanced calendar, the district should look into a balanced calendar for all students from kindergarten through eighth grade. A recent survey of district parents revealed a higher amount of support for a balanced schedule if all schools were on the same schedule, instead of one.

The recommendation was not an action item on the agenda, so the board made no decision Monday night, and it remains to be seen how they will react to a proposed expansion of a balanced calendar in light of the task force’s findings.  According to a summary of findings presented Monday night, the task force “did not find definitive research that would contend that a balanced calendar has a positive impact on student achievement.”

Prompted by a 2007 school board “vision paper” on a balanced calendar, the task force has met since last July, conducting a parent survey in March. Of the 163 responses to supporting a balanced calendar (distributing 176 school days over 10 or 11 months instead of nine), 55.2 percent wanted to keep the same schedule, with 38.7 percent preferring the balanced calendar (6.1 percent had no preference).  Asked their support of a balanced calendar if all district schools were included, 55 percent said yes, with 45 percent against the idea.

Monday night, the task force recommended it continue to meet to “study the feasibility of partial implementation of a balanced calendar to appeal to the 38.7 percent of respondents who support a balanced calendar without the district-wide condition,” and that a separate district-wide task force be formed to study the feasibility of “at least” a K-8 balanced calendar. Task force chairman Dan Rikli, principal of

Netherwood Knoll Elementary School, cited “pretty significant” summer learning loss as a main impetus for seeking information on a balanced calendar, as well as stress issues for students and staff.

“Things are different than a few years ago,” he said.

The task force’s FAQ on a balanced calendar states that changing academic expectations and government “challenges and mandates” have “significantly changed” the way school looks and feels.

“Many of the staff feel that these changes have created a more stressful and intense learning environment,” it read. “There is a general consensus among the NKE staff in support of spreading out the required 176 school days, with more frequent breaks; thus reducing stress and summer learning loss, while creating happier and more successful students.”

Task force member and second-grade teacher Andrea DeNure said the group spent a lot of time looking at achievement data, both before and after the summer break.

“There is some significant learning loss in that three-month time,” she said.

District parent Jeff Kling of Oregon said the group was “doubling down” on a balanced calendar when a “large percentage” of parents made it perfectly clear they didn’t want it.

“When did ‘No’ become ‘Yes?’” he asked. “When 61 percent of parents said they didn’t want a balanced calendar, and Mr. Rikli’s response is the same concept, but now going through K-8, disrupting more parents lives in the district.

“If math and reading scores and lower than we want them to be, let’s do more math and reading in school.”

Looking to the future, member Steve Zach said board members need to start thinking about larger items like personalized learning, teacher compensation and a possible balanced calendar, and how they fit into the district’s long-term planning.

“If we’re going to do some visioning, we need to look at all of those together, because all of them are coming together and bumping up against the barriers, and we need to make a decision, how far we want to go with it,” he said. “If you want to move forward with where education is going in this world, that means some fairly dynamic paradigm shifts. We’ve played around the edges for the last five years, if we’re going to move forward on any of them, it’s going to take some work and some collaboration and looking at all of these together.”

2014-15 Capital Maintenance Plan

Board members approved three projects be completed for $93,5000 as part of the 2014-15 Capital Maintenance Plan: $43,500 for removing asbestos flooring and replacing carpet with Marmoleum flooring in four rooms at Brooklyn Elementary School, replacing carpet with Marmoleum flooring in five rooms at Prairie View Elementary School for $25,500 and spending $24,500 (which includes $16,400 from the insurance company) to resurface the main gym floor at Oregon High School to correct water damage from last year.

The floors are scheduled to be installed this summer.

Personalized learning update

Citing progress made and work yet to be done, the board approved spending $75,000 from the district’s 2014-15 Fund 10 for professional development for personalized learning during the next four school years. The money will not come out of the district’s fund balance.

Growing numbers

For the 2014-15 school year, 35 will open enroll out of the district, and 117 will open enroll into the district, said superintendent Brian Busler.

New approach

Looking to gather more input at meetings, board president Dan Krause said he’s going to open up meetings in the future to let audience members “chime in” during the meeting itself, and not regulate their comments to the traditional public comment period at the beginning of meetings.

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