Local News

State Considers Waiver For School Snow Days

MADRAS, OR -- This month’s winter storm forced a number of Oregon school districts to cancel classes, impacting students’ total number of instructional hours for the year. Jefferson County 509J Superintendent Jay Mathisen says his district is grappling with that equation after canceling five days of school and starting two hours late on three other days, "When you talk about instructional hours, you’re talking about school days: how long is your school day? And then we talk about how many school days. And then, we’re also able to add in some parent-conference time and professional development time."

Previous Coverage: Two Local Districts Consider Storm Make-up Days

Under the Governor’s Emergency declaration, the Oregon Department of Education is considering offering waivers to districts that lost instructional time, so they wouldn't have to schedule make-up days. "Then really," says Mathisen, "The decision for us is not about meeting instructional hours requirements. It’s about teaching and learning for students. And that’s okay; that’s where we want our decisions to be made. And so, at some point, even if there was no instructional hours requirement, we would say, ‘yeah, we’re going to add back some learning time for kids,’ potentially."

ODE tells KBND News it is working with the State Board of Education on a temporary rule to waive up to 14 hours of inclement weather time, if districts apply for the change to their instructional hours calculation. Mathisen says it's not unheard of, "It’s something that was done some years ago, when we had some really, really rough winter weather all across the state. So, there’s a chance that school districts are able to apply for a waiver from that requirement this year. Waivers would have to be approved by the state."

He won’t announce a decision for a week or two, "This is a possibility, that we add some days back. But we think it’s wise to wait right now, before we talk about if, how many and when."

If ODE approves the waiver plan, it could not be used for other closures, like Portland Public Schools’ three-week strike.

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