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Parents protest early start date

School board tables decision on calendar

During a heated school board meeting that lasted roughly two hours, frustrated parents voiced their vexation with a proposal to start the next school year roughly two weeks earlier than usual.

The Estacada School Board was set to consider approving the proposed 2015-16 calendar during the board meeting on Wednesday, March 4.

However, disgruntled parents arrived en masse to ask the board to reconsider.

Angie Nelson of the Eagle Creek Parent Club said many people were unhappy with the proposed Aug. 24 start date, as many families, expecting the school year to start weeks later in September, had already made and paid for end-of-summer plans such as the Oregon State Fair, camping and educational and religious summer camps.

Nelson also expressed concern that with the proposed calender, the elementary schools would be unbearably hot in late August; that teachers didn’t have adequate time to pack and set up classrooms, and that there weren’t enough scheduled parent/teacher conferences.

“Basically what we’re asking is please don’t vote on the calendar tonight,” Nelson said. “Take a step back and listen to what we all have to say and maybe make an adjustment.”

Several other parents echoed her concerns.

Lisa Pitts said it was too short notice for an early start date for the next school year.

“You’re going to be losing a lot of students those first two weeks of school,” Pitts said. “They’re definitely not going to come, because plans have already been made.”

During the Feb. 11 board meeting, Superintendent Marla Stephenson had given a presentation in which she stated that by the time Oregon students graduate, they have received about one year short of the national average for instructional time between grades 1 and 12.

Stephenson said in a later interview that her intent behind the presentation was to lay the framework for extending the school year for Estacada students starting next year.

With the proposed calendar, secondary students would receive 176 days of instructional time, or about four more than this year, and elementary students would receive 175 days of instructional time, also about four more days than this year.

Stephenson defined “instructional days” as “teachers standing in front of students.”

“I went to the maximum number of days,” she said in a Feb. 27 interview. “I believe that it is incumbent upon me as being responsible for teaching and learning in this district that I continue to push for more instructional days. Internally in Estacada, via teaching contract... But also, I need to express my commitment to increasing instructional hours throughout the state.”

The board voted during the March 9 meeting to postpone a vote on the calendar.


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