Superintendent Dave Valenzuela praised Lorna Byrne Middle School personnel at the Dec. 14 Three Rivers School District Board of Directors meeting, held at 3:30 p.m. at Southern Oregon Success Academy in Merlin.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Valenzuela was informed there was a burst pipe at the middle school.
“Saturday of that weekend I get a call from Mr. Danny Pratt, the principal at Lorna Byrne Middle School, and he said that the school split, a ceiling pipe had burst and they couldn’t get a part so school was not going to be able to take place on Monday because there would be no heat,” Valenzuela recalled.
The superintendent recounted a group effort to repair the damage as the weekend unfolded so that school would not need to be delayed.
“Mr. Pratt and his family gathered up a couple shop vacs and went out to Lorna Byrne to start cleaning up and called a few people – Jim Bungie, our maintenance director, got involved – and they went out and essentially, long story short, they found parts from different places, they got in the ceiling and fixed this broken pipe and then some maintenance folks got involved on Sunday. Don Mannion went out and essentially all these people, the custodians pitched in during the weekend, late at night; the office manager (Sandy Madden) was out there, because the staff knew how important it was for those students to return to school on Monday after being out since last Tuesday.”
Valenzuela went on, “They went above and beyond, they went the extra mile, and they got school open Monday morning.”
He added that the only sign something was amiss was a slight “wet dog smell” in the school.
Later, during the superintendent’s report, Valenzuela focused on how switching to a four-day school week has impacted the district and fact-checking some of the “misinformed and inaccurate” “rhetoric” surrounding the subject.
He opined that they are in the midst of the first “normal” school year since instituting the four-day week, recalling that the governor’s shelter in place order was issued the very day after the TRSD board voted unanimously to cut Fridays from the schedule, which turned into canceling the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year.
“Here we are in the 2022/2023 school year,” said Valenzuela. “This would be our third year after voting to go to a four-day school week and I would argue with anyone that this is our first normal school year of implementation of a four-day school week.”
Getting into the stats, the superintendent stated TRSD high school students receive 413 instructional minutes per day, compared to 366 at neighboring school districts; students get 236 instructional minutes in each class per week at TRSD high schools, compared to 244 at neighboring districts.
“We are off by eight minutes per class per week in a four-day school week… Over the course of a week that isn’t a great deal,” Valenzuela concluded.
He added that TRSD only starts school seven minutes earlier than neighboring districts and students stay 26 minutes later.
According to Valenzuela, a lot of factors will be considered over the following 18 months when appraising whether the four-day week is an overall success or failure. One such factor is financial savings, which Valenzuela expects to see. He added that “cost was the driver initially.” However, he said that cost turned into a “tertiary at best reason” after the process of converting to a four-day week was completed.
The superintendent said a committee will be formed to examine how the four-day school week effects multiple facets of the district, including: academic achievement and growth; staff recruitment and retention; staff satisfaction and well-being; student enrollment; student satisfaction and well-being; staff absenteeism and substitute utilization; safety; and impact on overall climate and culture.
Valenzuela said he appointed Damien Crowson to be the chair of this new committee. In March, this committee is expected to start delivering regular reports to the board.
As far as safety is concerned, Valenzuela used an argument he attributed to Board Member Rich Halsted that with one of the most dangerous roads in the nation, Redwood Hwy, within the district, keeping buses and commuters off it every Friday is a benefit.
Board Chair Jennifer Johnstun noted that the district should consider that any impact to staff recruitment and retention may be due to the pandemic instead of the four-day school week implementation.
During the board’s ‘Say Something Positive’ segment, Zone I Board Member Jenn Searle gave a shout-out to school nurses and their support staff.
“I’m sure all over the district, but I know here in the Illinois Valley we are elbows deep in all sorts of illnesses and viruses and we are in the throes of the cold and flu season,” said Searle.
She added, “School nurses and the support staff are right on the front lines helping keep our children healthy and comforting them when they are not feeling well until the parents can get there and I just wanted to say thank you to all of them for doing what they do.”
The Illinois Valley High School December newsletter boasted of the results yielded from its Academic Enhancement Program, stating, “The Academic Enhancement Program at Illinois Valley High School has been recovering credits and finishing classes at a record high pace. Just 11 weeks into the school year we have finished 189 classes, transcribed 92.75 credits, credentialed three GED students and graduated one. This success comes from a lot of factors: we are supported by all of the administration staff in the Three Rivers School District, we have a great environment for students to be successful and our staff cares about all of our students.”
The TRSD Board of Directors holds their next meeting tonight at their board office at 6 p.m.