Eugene students get extended Thanksgiving holiday

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Associated Press

Posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:01 PM

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — "No-school November" continues to build a legacy in Eugene.

Students in the Eugene and Bethel school districts will have the entire week of Thanksgiving off this year because of unpaid furlough days the districts agreed to with the teachers' union earlier this year.

Since 2004, students in the Eugene district have had, on average, 3.8 no-school days in November. This year's six no-school days — which doesn't count some days that some schools cancel classes to make time for parent-teacher conferences — is the most no-school days in November in the past decade.

"Between conferences and holidays, and then having furlough days, they're not in school much," said Tara Sloan of her two sons who attend Edgewood Elementary School and Spencer Butte Middle School, respectively.

Her sons each had two days off for parent-teacher conference days this month, on top of the six district-wide no-school days, she said.

The Eugene district's 165-day school year is its shortest one yet, and its nine furlough days for teachers are nearly twice as many as last year. The furlough days are part of the district's way of creating a balanced budget.

For her part, Sloan isn't necessarily complaining. Scheduling three of nine furlough days before Thanksgiving — a move Sloan describes as "making lemonade out of lemons" — is more convenient for families, she said.

"It's less disruptive," she said, adding that some students don't go to school on the days before Thanksgiving anyway, due to family travel plans.

In all, students in the Eugene district will go to school just 15 school days this month. Most elementary and middle school students will also miss one or two days of school for parent-teacher conferences, district spokeswoman Kerry Delf said. High school students will not miss any days for conferences, she said.

Students in the Bethel district have just 14 class days this month.

Springfield students have a similar schedule, going to class for just 14 full days this month, plus one half-day. Students in the Springfield district will have school on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

Next month, middle and high school students in the Eugene district will go to class just 13 days before winter break on Dec. 23. Elementary students will have 14 school days in December.

Eugene School Board Chairwoman Mary Walston said in an email that she has heard from teachers who say lumping three of nine furlough days together during the holiday week is better than having them scattered throughout the school year.

The extended break, though, is especially difficult for some low-income families, she said.

"Many parents only have the day of Thanksgiving off, thus creating a need for child care for the other days of the week," Walston said.

Last year, Sloan and several other parents started organizing no-school-day field trips for students. She said the group took students to museums, libraries and even the state Capitol to lobby legislators for more education funding.

The group doesn't have anything planned yet for the Thanksgiving break, but may come up with something, she said.

"There's a scramble," Sloan said of parents trying to organize child care during no-school days. She said she's lucky to have a flexible job that allows her to adjust her hours during Thanksgiving week.

Plus, her husband, who works as a speech pathologist for the Eugene district, will also be home to care for their kids.

But he won't get paid for those days off.

"With it being right before Christmas, it'd be nice to have that money," Sloan said.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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