|12/18/2008 10:07:00 AM|
|Memo # 007-2008-2009 Shortened School Year Procedure|
TO: School District Superintendents
FROM: Ed Dennis, Deputy Superintendent, Oregon Department of Education
RE: Shortened School Year Procedure
Summary: Specifies procedure that school district may follow to reduce instructional hours to below the minimum requirements.
The Department of Education recognizes that many school districts are facing tough choices to address the current budget situation. The department intends to continue working with policy makers and our education partners to find solutions for addressing budgetary issues. The department also recognizes that school districts are in the best position to address potential budget deficiencies proactively.
Many Oregon school districts are considering shortening the school year in order to meet budget shortfalls. This memorandum specifies the procedure that school districts must follow if they reduce their instructional hours to below the minimum requirements established in administrative rule.
As you are aware, the State Board of Education has established educational standards that each district must implement.
In order to qualify for State School Funds, school districts are required under Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 327.103 to maintain a "standard school" as defined in ORS 327.006. That definition refers to the standards established by the State Board of Education; those standards are set out in Oregon Administrative Rule Chapter 581, Division 22.
A "standard school" is a school which is in compliance with all state standards in Division 22. Note that each school in a district must be standard.
ORS 327.103 describes the process the State Superintendent, through the Department of Education, will follow if a school district is not meeting a "standard" requirement.
REQUIRED INSTRUCTIONAL TIME
Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-1620 requires school district annual instructional programs to provide to students, at a minimum, the following number of hours:
Kindergarten (based on half-day)
Grades 1 through 3
Grades 4 through 8
Grades 9 through 12
Note that these listed hours are not required attendance hours for each student, but rather are instructional program requirements.
In addition, a local school board may reduce the minimum requirements as follows:
DISTRICTS MUST NOTIFY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
A district that decides to cut instructional days from their calendar prior to submitting their annual assurance form should notify the Department of Education through the assurance form if it is likely that the decision will result in the district being out of compliance with a standard. If the decision is made after the assurance form has been submitted, the district should notify the Department in writing of their decision. If it is determined that a district does not meet a "standard," the district is deemed "deficient" under state law and must prepare a plan, approved by the district school board, to correct the deficiency and submit the plan to the State Superintendent. When a plan has been accepted by the State Superintendent, the district is designated "conditionally standard" and generally has until the beginning of the next school year to correct the deficiency through the implementation of the plan. If the deficiencies cannot be corrected before the beginning of the next school year, the State Superintendent may extend the period of time for one year.
If in May 2009 a district reports to the State Superintendent that the local school district has cut 6 days from its instructional program, the Department will investigate to determine if the district is deficient in meeting any standards. If, for example, the reduction results in a high school calendar of fewer than 990 hours, the school district must, within 90 days, submit to the State Superintendent a plan of correction. As soon as the district supplies an acceptable plan, the district is designated "conditionally standard" and the district has until the beginning of the next school year (late August or early September 2009) to make the corrections. If the corrections cannot be completed by fall of 2009, the district may request that the State Superintendent extend the timeline for no more than one year (late August or early September 2010).
Districts That Fail To Notify the Department
If a district does not meet a state standard and fails to notify the State Superintendent and submit a plan, schools in the district will be found deficient and identified as "nonstandard schools." The Superintendent has the obligation to withhold State School Fund monies for such districts.
Sources Of Reporting And Notification
As you know, school districts are required annually to submit an assurance form to the Department of Education. This next year the assurance form is to be sent in by February 27, 2009. Department staff will review the forms and contact districts that have indicated areas of concern. If the area of concern indicates that the district is not meeting a "standard", or will not meet a standard in the future, the process described above will come into play and the district will be required to provide a plan of correction.
In addition, the Department of Education may learn of potential deficiencies from local news media, from parents, or from other district patrons. Regardless of how the Department receives notice, the process and the timelines for responding to an alleged deficiency is the same. If a district is planning to cut days from the calendar, there is no advantage to postponing the decision until after the assurance form has been submitted.
Some districts have inquired about a waiver from the State Board of Education of the instructional time standard under OAR 581-022-1940. A 1990 opinion letter from the Attorney General’s specifically states that financial hardship does not constitute grounds for a waiver of standards under Oregon Administrative Rule 581-22-802 (currently OAR 581-022-1940.) Based on this opinion letter the state board will not be granting waivers of the instructional time standard.
Another area of concern that has been raised regarding the decision to shorten the school year is the potential impact on students' ability to earn "units of credit" as defined in OAR 581-022-0102. OAR 581-022-1130 sets out the specific "unit of credit" requirements for earning a diploma. If a school district is designated "conditionally standard" upon the completion of a satisfactory plan of correction, the credits awarded by district schools to individual students during that time would be covered under the district plan and would not be affected. However, credits awarded by a "nonstandard" school district would not necessarily be recognized if transferred to another high school under OAR 581-021-0210.
K-12 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
In the event that a school district decides to shorten the school year, the district should review every Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to determine if the shortened school year prevents full implementation of the plan. In the event that changes are required to the IEP, parents must be involved, and any unilateral school or district decisions regarding IEPs are prohibited. Additionally, there are six other issues relative to shortening the K-12 school year that require attention; each depends on the individual situation of the district or student.
1. Interdistrict Transfers
The school year of the district the student is attending is the student’s school year unless specified otherwise in a transfer agreement or IEP. This applies to students who have transferred outside of their resident district to attend a public school, charter school, or state-run school. It is imperative that districts review all interdistrict transfer agreements and other contracts concerning the provision of special education or related services. See OAR 581-021-0019.
Transportation for students with disabilities to access their education must continue to be provided at no cost to the student or parent. Parents may be offered the option of transporting their child but must voluntarily agree to do so. Parents cannot be forced to transport their child and they cannot be threatened with no access to services due to lack of transportation. See generally OAR 581-015-2000(28) & OAR 581-015-2040. This requirement applies to access to school programs, regional programs, state special schools, charter schools, and out-of-district placements.
3. Parentally Placed Private School Students
The school year of the district in which the private school is located is the student’s school year. Students shall continue to receive the services specified on their services plans. If the attending district modifies or shortens its school year, the provision of special education and related services specified on each student’s services plan shall follow the modified calendar. Any review and revision of a services plan that results from a change in the attending district's calendar year should be conducted, to the extent appropriate, in accordance with the requirements of OAR 581-015-2190 through 581-015-2225.
The District must notify representatives of private schools and parents of parentally placed private school students about any modifications in the agreed upon timelines, funding, or child find activities resulting from a shortened school year.
If the district has not expended its entire proportionate share of IDEA Part B funds, the district must carry over any remaining funds for an additional period of one year to be used for parentally placed private school students.
4. Transition Planning
Kindergarten transition planning by district and ECSE programs are advised to begin planning earlier than usual to accommodate any shortened school year. See OAR 581-015-2800.
Similarly, transition planning for students ages 16-21 should be coordinated between appropriate agencies in a timely manner to accommodate any shortened school year. See OAR 581-015-2200(2) (a).
5. Extended School Year and Services
In the event of a shortened school calendar, districts should review each student's needs for Extended School Year (ESY) to determine what, if any, impact regression or recoupment might have on the student. These determinations should be made consistent with the district’s approved special education policy and procedures and the Oregon Administrative Rules. See generally OAR 581-015-2065 (special school-age ESY services) & OAR 581-015-2855 (early childhood Extended Year services).
6. Maintenance of Effort
MOE is a fiscal standard, not a time standard. Clearly shortened school calendars are not referenced in the definition of MOE, and the United States Department of Education has confirmed that shortening school calendars does not qualify as a financial exception under 34 CFR 300.204
In summary, a district that decides to cut days from the instructional calendar must do one of the following if the cuts would result in the district being out of compliance with OAR 581-022-1620 (required instructional time) or OAR 581-022-0102 (unit of credit):
If the decision is made prior to submitting the annual assurance form, the district must indicate on the form non-compliance with 581-022-1620 (required instructional time) and OAR 581-022-0102 (unit of credit); or If the decision is made after the annual assurance form has been submitted, the district must notify the Department of Education in writing of the decision and the resulting non-compliance with 581-022-1620 (required instructional time) and OAR 581-022-0102 (unit of credit).
In addition, the district should review every IEP, interdistrict transfer agreement and other contract related to the provision of special education and related services. The district should also consider other issues related to the provision of special education.
Contacts: Russ Sweet at 503-947-5638 or Cindy Hunt at 503-947-5651. For questions related to special education contact Ty Manieri at 503-947-5689.
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