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Eugene 4J schools fall short of state required in-class time

FILE - Eugene 4J School District (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. – The Eugene 4J School District said a miscalculation led to this year's shortfall of classroom time for students.

The State of Oregon requires elementary and middle schools to have 900 instructional hours per year.

High schools must meet 990 hours per year, and a little less for seniors.

4J officials said many of their schools fall below the minimum requirements.

They define instructional time as the time students spend in class with teachers, as well as some other things, for example, parent teacher conferences, teacher development days, or recess for younger children.

According to 4J officials, they discovered the miscalculation in early spring.

“There was severe weather this year and after losing six days due to snow and ice, the district took a really close look at instructional time, looking to add back days and time,” said Kerry Delf, Eugene 4J School District Spokesperson.

Delf said that's when the district realized that some schools were between 2 and 118 hours below what is required by law.

“It was discovered that the instructional hours had not been being calculated as accurately as they should have been,” said Delf.

The district immediately reported the issue to the state and the school board during a public session, according to Delf.

Other school districts, who say they have very different approaches to keeping track of hours, have met the minimum hour requirements.

The Springfield School District said they work with a master calendar.

The Bethel School District is much smaller and has their own way of doing things.

“We have a matrix that each principal uses to develop their master schedule,” said Pat Mcgillivray with Bethel schools. “For example, when each principal uses this matrix at the elementary level, they know that they need 120 minutes every day for those students. Our principals submit that to our superintendent who reviews it, we enter the information into a document that is required by the state. That's how we know that we're at least equal to, if not above, the required minimum number of hours,” said Mcgillivray.

The 4J school district is much larger than Bethel.

Every one of their schools has an individual schedule which they can make changes to.

“A student in one school may be receiving 50 or more hours of instruction less than a student at a different school in the same grade. Not because of anything specific about the program, but because of the school's calendar. That's not equitable for students, it is a significant difference across schools and that was really called into sharp focus by this analysis,” said Delf.

Moving forward, Delf said the district is looking to implement a more coordinated calendar.

she said with a new approach, the district aims to meet more than the minimal required hours, and have more balance among schools.

Delf said discussions for a new system approach are underway right now.

Looking at this school year, the 4J school district added back five days to make up for winter weather.

That pushed the last day of school back from June 16 to June 22.

Those makeup days do not make up for all missed instructional hours.

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