Jose Perez, 10, plays a game of trackball, which is a combination of dodgeball and capture the flag, at the Ashland YMCA after-school program Tuesday. The Ashland Y has extended its spring break day-camp program five days to accommodate the extended break announced by Ashland and Pinehurst school districts. - Jim Craven

School districts wrestle with closures

With one month left before most Jackson County schools' spring break, many families and local child-care centers still don't know whether schools will be closed for an extra week or even longer because of budget cuts.

Every public school district in the county, except for Butte Falls, Prospect and Rogue River, plans to cut at least five days off the school calendar unless the Oregon Legislature intervenes.

Local school officials were hopeful Tuesday that a joint Senate-House proposal to give schools about $51 million in federal stimulus funds this school year would pass both chambers, thereby reducing the number of days that would have to be slashed.

"The district needs to make an announcement about which days will be cut," said Ed Chun, father of a second-grader at Lone Pine Elementary School in Medford. "Give parents some time to plan."

Medford, the county's largest district, expects to have to shear 13.5 days off its school year, but has given no indication when those days would be cut. More information likely will be available next week, district officials said.

"I know a lot of people are anxious to hear what we are doing," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long. "We are going to try to preserve as many instructional days as possible."

Long declined to disclose what the district's options are for cutting days, including whether the days might be tagged onto spring break. Any decision would have to be approved by the district's unions.

"I feel I need to be respectful to our associations," Long said. "I don't want to negotiate this in the newspaper."

The Eagle Point district is favoring trimming some Mondays and Fridays rather than extending spring break, but no decisions have been made, said Finance Director Dan Zaklan.

"The school board has authorized (cutting) up to 12 days," Zaklan said. "We don't know how many it will be. We are waiting on the Legislature to see if they are going to help us out."

The Phoenix-Talent district is weighing a variety of options to shorten the school year, from extending spring break to making more long weekends, said Doug Spani, business manager.

Central Point school officials plan to meet with employee unions on March 4 to discuss which days to cut. The district could trim from five to 18 days, said Central Point schools Superintendent Randy Gravon. The Central Point School Board could decide on the cuts March 14, Gravon said.

Central Point district officials will not propose lengthening spring break, but would go that route if that's the unions' preference, Gravon said.

The Ashland and Pinehurst school systems have decided to add five days to spring break. The break will last from March 16 to March 30.

The Ashland YMCA has extended its spring break day-camp program to accommodate the extra days.

The Rogue Valley YMCA in Medford also has plans in place to provide childcare on any days the Medford district chooses to cut, said executive director Brad Russell.

"We are waiting on their decisions," Russell said.

Scholarships are available for low-income families, he said.

Emily Mureddu, grandmother of three students at Jefferson Elementary School in Medford, said she doesn't know how her daughter would manage paying for more child care if another week is added to spring break.

"That would be awful," Mureddu said. "My daughter works, and she's a single mother. I take off work to pick up the kids because I can."

"I don't think the district should cut days because there aren't enough school days as it is," she added. "My other daughter is a teacher in California. They're having a tough time there, too, but they're not talking about cutting school days."

State Economist Tom Potiowsky said Friday the Oregon budget deficit has grown to $850 million for the current biennium, which ends June 30. The shortfall is projected to reach nearly $3 billion for 2009-11.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or

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