Four-day school week, year-round instruction are under consideration by calendar committee

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - During a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8, members of the Estacada School Districts calendar committee discuss pros and cons of implementing a later school start time.

The Estacada School District is considering several options for a four-year calendar, including a traditional schedule, a balanced calendar and a four-day school week.

The district's calendar committee met for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The group consists of teachers, classified staff, principals, parents and students. In March, the group will present a recommendation to the school board for approval.

"We are here to brainstorm the best calendar that will lead to student learning," said Scott Sullivan, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, noting that the committee would "dig deep to see what's best for the community and kids."

He added that the proposed calendar would span four years "so parents and families can plan long term."

With the school district's current calendar, classes begin in September and end in June. Each school in the district begins their day between 8-8:15 a.m. and ends between 2-3:05 p.m., with an early release day on Wednesdays.

Along with continuing this traditional schedule, the calendar committee is also in the initial phases of gathering information on several new types of calendars, along with school start times.

Also known as a year-round calendar, a balanced calendar distributes the days students attend school evenly across the 12 months of the year. The traditional long summer vacation is reduced, and these vacation days are spread throughout the school year.

During the calendar committee's discussion, benefits of a balanced calendar included a

decrease in summer learning loss and increased connections to school. Potential difficulties included the calendar being uncommon in Oregon and the impact on students who attend camps or work during summer vacation.

Also under consideration is a four day school week, during which students would potentially meet for longer instructional days, one day less than in a traditional calendar. According to the Oregon School Board Association and the Oregon Department of Education, there are 68 school districts in the state that follow this model, including Corbett and Colton.

Advantages noted for this schedule included improved attendance, a day of rest for students, opportunities for uninterrupted maintenance work and a cost savings for the school district. Potential disadvantages included the impact on students who depend on school for meals, and how the schedule would affect families' needs for childcare.

In terms of school start times, initial research presented during last week's meeting stated that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges that middle and high schools start after 8:30 a.m.

A study of 900 middle and high school students conducted by the University of Minnesota over three years found that later start times led to higher test scores, increased attendance and decreased tardiness, substance abuse, symptoms of depression and consumption of caffeine. There was also a reduction of teen car crashes.

Potential difficulties associated with later school start times include an impact on time available for after school tutoring and clubs, along with scheduling sports or extracurricular activities during daylight hours.

The calendar committee will continue researching different options and meet again

next month to discuss their findings.

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