REDMOND — Students in the Redmond School District will get out of school an hour early on Wednesdays next year, a move designed to carve out more professional development time for teachers during each week.
The Redmond School Board unanimously approved the schedule, which district staff and teachers have been working on for about a year. In past years, the district has twice considered moving to shortened Wednesdays but backed off the idea, in part because of parent concerns.
But there was little evidence of protests this time around. The committee that planned the schedule visited with parent groups, community groups and staff at all district schools.
Board Chairman Jim Erickson credited that outreach for the smooth planning and adoption of shortened Wednesdays.
“A few of us went through this and the response was absolutely different, because the first time (parents) heard about it was when the board was going to vote on it,” Erickson said.
With its new schedule, the Redmond district will join about 30 districts statewide that either have early-release or late-start Wednesdays.
Currently on Wednesdays, Bend-La Pine Schools releases students early, and the Sisters School District starts late.
Even though class will let out an hour early on Wednesdays in Redmond schools, instruction time will not change, according to the district. The exact schedule is not finalized, but a few minutes of nonclass time — such as teacher preparation — will be converted into instructional time. Each day but Wednesday could also be extended by a few minutes.
While the new schedule is intended to help teachers develop, Judy Newman, president of the Redmond Education Association, expressed some concerns.
Teachers could lose some preparation time from each day, Newman said. She also wondered whether teachers would be expected to stay longer on Wednesdays after training was done each afternoon.
“When you have early release, when the end of the day comes, I worry that people will be asked to work past that time,” Newman said.
The planning committee researched other options, including a shortened day on either Monday or Friday. That option was dismissed because such a schedule tends to hurt attendance rates, according to the committee.
With the board’s vote, the planning committee will begin setting up how the professional development time will be used next year.
“We’ll spend the rest of this year and summer designing what that looks like,” said Jennifer Moore, a teacher who sits on the committee.
Superintendent Shay Mikalson has long backed the plan and said implementing more regular professional development will help the district.
“I completely support this proposal and frankly see this as a shining opportunity ... as something that’s critical to our success,” Mikalson said.