Beaverton district, teachers agree to add nine class days through 2018

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Kim Putnam, a music teacher at Hazeldale Elementary School - here dancing with third-graders - and her fellow teachers will likely see longer school years beginning next year.The school year could grow longer by the equivalent of nearly two weeks in the Beaverton School District, leaving local students with many more days in class than most kids in Oregon.

The Beaverton School Board last week ratified a contract with its teachers’ union, the Beaverton Education Association, which includes up to nine more days of instructional time for students as well as increased time for staff collaboration and development, assuming the district’s budget can absorb the additional costs over that time. The union already had approved the agreement, which comes with salary increases.

By 2018, students may start a week earlier, possibly pushing the beginning of school into late August, and also adding four days during the regular academic year.

If all nine days are added, Beaverton would reach 184 school days, about four days above the U.S. average, according to data from the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association.

Adding instructional time has been a priority within the Beaverton district and beyond as experts look for ways to improve Oregon’s education systems, which by some measures have lagged well behind other states.

“Adding teaching time in the classroom is a win for students, especially in Oregon, where we have some of the shortest school calendars in the country,” said Peggy Stock, who provides contract negotiation services to boards as the Oregon School Boards Association’s director of labor services. “Increasing teaching time lifts student achievement, and can help raise graduation rates as well.”

Beaverton students had 175 school days in the school year just finished, well above the state average of 166 days, according to data a majority of Oregon districts self-reported to the OSBA. The highest, Three Rivers School District in Josephine County, had 185 days of class in 2015-16.

Beaverton’s plan is to gradually build school days into its calendar over the span of the three-year contract, starting by revising the 2016-17 school calendar to tack on two more instructional days in June. Tentatively, those days would shift into August in following years.

Starting the next year (2017-18), four teacher work days could be erased from the calendar, potentially replaced by 90-minute early releases on Wednesdays. The change would give teachers a regular time for development and collaboration without increasing the number of days with substitute teachers in the classroom.

That same year, the district also plans to convert to a semester schedule, reducing grading from three times to twice yearly (in January and June).

During the last year of the contract (2018-19), if the budget allows, another three days could be added to the school year.

District spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said the details about early release, as well as some of the other aspects of the new plan, are still in development and potentially open to revision.

If the budget doesn’t expand enough to pay for the longer school year, the district could revert to the 175 class days offered during the past year, according to the agreement.

Wheeler said district officials are aware that early releases can create challenges for scheduling and child care, adding that parents and other district patrons would be asked for input. She noted that several neighboring districts already have regular late starts or early releases on their school calendars.

Under the contract, teachers will see steps in their salary schedule increase by 3.25 percent the first year, 3 percent the second year and from 3 percent to 3.5 percent during the final year, with that 2018 raise contingent on the cost to the Public Employees Retirement System.

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