The 4J School Board expanded public comment time at the April 10 meeting as part of its pledge to hold more feedback sessions with community members. Over about 90 minutes, comments touched on the district’s move to a common high school schedule, changes in the way health clinics operate and proposed cuts to library services.
Three members of the district’s Equity Committee spoke in favor of the common schedule. “Our goal as a community is a 100 percent graduation rate,” said Carmen Urbina, 4J’s parent, family and community coordinator. 4J’s four-year graduation rate is 66 percent.
Former city councilor Gary Rayor, the parent of a child at Charlemagne/Fox Hollow, said he supports the common schedule for middle and high schools because “there has to be some conformity to provide efficient, cost-effective services.”
Parent Douglas Moorehead said his family’s experience at Sheldon High School over 18 years was of a school “constantly in transition.” He urged 4J to delay adopting the common schedule, given strong teacher opposition and talk of adding music electives to an early-morning period.
Parent David Zupan said a panel discussion with teachers and parents concerned about the 3x5 schedule will be held at 7 pm Thursday, April 18, at the Unitarian Church at 13th and Chambers. “The purpose of the event in a neutral setting is to help the community and especially 4J parents learn more about why a majority of 4J teachers … are calling for a delay in implementing the proposed 3x5 schedule,” he said.
Noah Mifsud, a ninth grader at South Eugene High School, said he and his friends were concerned about longer classes and about the gaps in instruction that would come from the 3x5, which could provide language and math only two-thirds of the year.
Other comments came from librarians requesting that 4J not cut library services, and from parents, graduates and health workers asking the board to reconsider cuts to school clinics, including cuts to mental health providers.
Board Chair Jennifer Geller explained that clinic cuts aren’t just because of funding, but also because of changes in state regulations. Superintendent Sheldon Berman emphasized that the district isn’t cutting health centers, it’s restructuring them. Every high school will retain a school nurse, and every middle school will share a nurse with two elementary schools. He also said 4J hopes to come up with a resolution that addresses students’ mental health needs.
Tad Shannon, president of the Eugene Education Association, told the board, “Our members are stressed like I’ve never seen them stressed, and it’s only going to get harder next year.” He reiterated his desire to see the common schedule postponed.
Board members urged parents and others to attend the district’s April 22 budget committee meeting and to contact legislators to urge funding for education.