Local education leaders have mixed sentiments about Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed mandate of a minimum 180-day school year in Oregon.

They do agree on this, however — the process of putting it in place would be filled with financial complications.

“It would be a heavy lift,” said Larry Glaze, director of operations for the InterMountain Education Service District and former La Grande School District Superintendent.

A major reason is many Oregon school districts have four-day weeks, which adds up to approximately 150 school days a year. These school districts would be forced to switch to five-day weeks to meet the 180-day minimum.

Earl Pettit, superintendent of the Cove School District, said it would be difficult for school districts on four-day weeks to shift to a five-day week. Pettit knows it would be a painful process for his school district, which has been on a four-day week for about three decades.

“It would create havoc. (The four-day week) has become part of the culture of the school and the community,” he said.

Many other school districts in Union and Wallowa counties would also experience the pain Pettit discussed. Like Cove, the Elgin, Enterprise, Joseph, North Powder, Union and Wallowa school districts are on four-day weeks. Imbler students attend school for 4-1/2 days a week.

Pettit, in his second year as Cove’s superintendent, is a member of the Governor’s 180-Day Work Group, a coaltion of between 30 and 40 educators from around the state meeting to evaluate Brown’s proposal. La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza and North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon are also members of the work group, which last met Jan. 10.

Pettit said the general consensus of the group is that if there is to be a 180-day minimum school year, the plan developed for it should come with alternatives.

“They all agree there would have to be built-in flexibility,” Pettit said. “Nobody (who has spoken at the work group meetings) wants a straight 180-day school year.”

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer

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