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Snow days could cost students at year's end

POLK COUNTY - Strong snowstorms disrupted the daily routines of many in the Northwest corner of Oregon last week.

POLK COUNTY - Strong snowstorms disrupted the daily routines of many in the Northwest corner of Oregon last week.

Perhaps few institutions felt those effects more than schools. Districts in Polk County, like many across the state, were forced to shutter doors on Jan. 28 and opened late the following two days.

Whether those cancellations translate into longer school years by way of makeup days, however, depends on the district.

Central and Dallas may not have to schedule any additional days; Perrydale and Falls City almost certainly will if there are any more closures.

Oregon requires its schools to achieve a certain number of instructional hours for different grades each year.

For example, high school students must be in the classroom at least 990 hours during a year. Grades four through eight log 900 hours, and kindergarten, 405 hours.

Many districts have contracts with faculty that stipulate a minimum number of work days with students, or time for training and development.

For example, there are a total of 1,120 instructional hours in the Dallas High calendar.

But more than 100 hours could be lost due to emergency closures or delays before make-up days would be necessary, said Corey Bradshaw, director of instructional services, noting Dallas has closed twice and had five delays in 2007-08.

While state standards may be met, the issue of covering curriculum still presents a challenge. Bradshaw said it's up to faculty to condense material the best they can.

"They have to say to themselves, `what can I afford not to spend time on?'" she said. "(Last) week has been a misery for education ... the loss of instruction time and the disruption of continuity is difficult for kids and staff."

Central School District is in a similar situation to Dallas, and doesn't budget any snow days in its calendar. Officials at Falls City and Perrydale, however, schedule two days - allowed by the state - for emergency closures. Anything beyond that must be made up.

Perrydale runs Monday through Thursday; as such, lost days can easily be made up on Friday, Superintendent Robin Stoutt said.

But that's not to downplay the hardships that school closures create, Stoutt continued.

"It's tough to try and reschedule all of the meetings and the after-school activities," she said, noting a key basketball game against Jewell had to be played on a weekend.

Kindergartens are also hit hard, as morning sessions are typically canceled with delays. Dallas kindergartners have lost 17.5 hours this school year, Bradshaw said.

"The other grades have lost just as much, but they go to school more and it's much less impactful," she said. "These little ones are just learning how to be in school. These gaps have a tremendous effect."

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