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Oregon Education Officials Offer Relief To Snow-Battered Schools

Oregon education officials may relax instructional time requirements for school districts that have lost class time to snow and ice.

Proposed rules would allow districts to count 14 hours of weather-related cancellations as “instructional time.” That’s similar to what Oregon used to allow, before phasing out allowances for time lost to weather emergencies.

Parents and teachers are all-too-familiar with how many times local schools have closed. The Oregon Trail School District in east Clackamas County has closed 13 times. That may be the most in the state, though many districts have closed nine times, including Portland Public Schools. That's also the number for Beaverton and Hillsboro schools to the west, and Estacada and Reynolds to the east.

The situation doesn't improve much outside the Portland metro area. In central Oregon, Jefferson County schools also closed nine times and Redmond schools have closed eight. In the southern Willamette Valley, Eugene schools have closed six times and Creswell closed five times, plus three days its schools closed part of the day.

Education Department legal affairs manager Cindy Hunt said the state didn’t want to write off more hours, in part, to encourage districts to add time back.

“Even if they close for one or more days, or eight days, 10 days — they’d planned for many of those days already," Hunt said. "Also, we still have a desire for students to be in school, receiving instruction, so that was part of the discussion as well.”

The State Board of Education will consider temporary rules at next week’s meeting that allow state officials to easily approve requests from districts to treat 14 hours of "snow days" as instructional time.

Hunt said regardless of whether the state board approves the allowance for weather emergencies, school districts have the option of seeking a waiver from the instructional time requirement itself.

Those requests go to the Board of Education, Hunt said, and they are typically evaluated carefully and approved only for a single year.

<p>Winter storms closed schools around Oregon.</p>

Winter storms closed schools around Oregon.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting, with oversight of reporters covering education, healthcare and business. Rob became an editor in 2019, following about 15 years covering schools and universities in Oregon and southwest Washington as OPB’s education reporter.