Ontario schools to migrate to “compressed” school calendar

Ontario Middle School students exit the school after the final bell on Friday afternoon. Staring in the fall, all schools in the Ontario district will have four-day schedules with Fridays off.

ONTARIO — As the trend of migrating public schools to four-day schedules continues on both sides of the Snake River, New Plymouth and Parma being among the latest school districts to hop on the bandwagon, they will soon be joined by the Ontario School District … at least partially. The decision was made at a special meeting of the district’s Board of Directors on Wednesday.

Superintendent Nikki Albisu summarized her plans for what she called a “compressed” school calendar.

“In planning this, it doesn’t really come out to be a true four-day week,” said Albisu. 

Unlike Payette, she said her proposal does include some five-day weeks.

Presently, the district has 176 student days, with six hours of instructional time daily. Albisu calculated that the district presently gives students 995 actual instructional hours, before factoring in the 24 hours given annually for parent conferences and the 37 hours discounted through the present use of late start Wednesdays to allow for professional development.

Under the compressed calendar, Albisu said each day would now give students 6 hours and 35 minutes of instructional time, with 1,004 hours total. However, 1,064 hours would be reported to the Oregon Department of Education. This happens when the district adds in 30 hours devoted to staff development and 30 hours for parent conferences.

“We would probably add 15 minutes or 20 minutes to the front end [of the school day] and 15 or 20 minutes to the back end,” said Albisu, noting that this is to avoid exacerbating a shortage of available bus drivers.

She also noted that the state of Oregon only requires elementary students to receive 900 instructional hours annually, but that all Ontario students presently receive 995. The new schedule would bring the total instructional hours to 1,004.

Regular school days would include 395 instructional minutes, with early release days being 215 minutes, said Albisu. She stated that this schedule will maximize instructional time for students, and that it benefits students who work after school or travel for school activities or athletics on Fridays.

She added that days off on Fridays give students a chance to participate in community programming, including such at the Boys & Girls Club, the Ontario Recreation Department and Four Rivers Cultural Center.

While the school lunch program cannot be used to fill food security needs on Fridays scheduled off, Albisu noted that the Ontario Middle School food bank and use of grant monies could potentially help fill this need.

“I will say that the majority of schools who are on four-day weeks aren’t really addressing that,” said Albisu. “I was shocked by that.”

The schedule would give students 14 Fridays off from school on alternating weeks, the rest being mandatory attendance.

Albisu also observed that migrating to four-day weeks is becoming a nationwide trend, with schools in Texas and Wyoming among the latest ones working to make the switch according to her research.

Board Chairman Eric Evans moved to approve the proposed calendar for the 2022-23 school year, Seconded by Board Member Matt Stringer. The roll call vote to approve was unanimous, 4-0.

Those in attendance received the approval with a round of applause.

The board also discussed the possibility of building wellness walkways around each of the district’s elementary schools. According to Albisu, the purpose of these walkways is twofold; encouraging physical wellness, as well as promoting mental health.

“Things are changing so quickly, in terms of supply and demand and getting people,” said Albisu, in explaining the cost of the project, whose bids were presented to the board at this meeting.

Evans motioned to award the project to Pro Playground and Steve’s Backhoe Service in the amount of $532,312, seconded by Co-Chair Blanca Rodriguez. The amount covers the playground equipment to be included, as well as labor costs. The motion carried unanimously, 4-0.



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