When educators announced they were striking to protest low teacher pay and shrinking state education funding, school districts declared that if the strike lasted more than two or three days, they could be forced to extend the school year.
Now, after six, in some cases seven, days of class instruction missed due to the statewide strike that forced the vast majority of Arizona public schools to close, most of Tucson’s major school districts say there’s no need to extend the school year to make up lost lessons.
Instead, many plan to squeeze more time into the day and finish up the year on schedule.
Arizona law requires schools to offer 180 days of instruction, or a certain number of instructional hours — between 712 and 1,000 hours — depending on the grade level.
School districts will be required to prove to the Arizona Department of Education they are still offering the minimum number of instructional minutes. In a memo Friday, the Department of Education clarified that if the walkouts caused districts to lose enough instructional time that students are short the required hours for their grade level, schools will have to make that up through longer days or adding additional days.
Many districts are still working out the details of what they’ll have to do to meet the minimum number of instructional hours, but most school districts in Pima County have already announced they won’t have to extend their school year. All declared that graduation dates will not be changed.
The Tucson Unified School District has 180 days of school in its schedule, and originally warned that if the strike went on for more than a few days, it would likely have to extend the school year. But after seven days of walkouts in the district, TUSD now says it won’t have to add days, though at several elementary schools it will be cramming more time into the school day.
And roughly 70 high school seniors who are only taking four periods will have to remain at school an additional two hours per day, according to district spokeswoman Michelle Valenzuela.
The Sunnyside Unified School District said only a small portion of its special-education students even have to add additional hours to their schedule. The vast majority of students had enough cushion in their schedule to withstand the six days of school closures that hit the district.
“It’s something like 13 kids, and basically we needed to add like 30 minutes per day,” district spokesman Victor Mercado said.
The Amphitheater Unified School District said in a statement that the last day of school, May 24, will remain unchanged.
But all schools will cancel all remaining early-release days. And final exam days at high schools will now be full school days, rather than early-dismissal days.
Marana Unified School District Superintendent Doug Wilson said the district crunched its numbers and found it has enough instructional time in its school schedule that it will not need to extend the school year, and Thursday, May 24, will remain the final day of the school year.
Tanque Verde Unified School District Superintendent Scott Hagerman told parents in a notice that the district would be canceling its remaining early-release Wednesdays and will hold a regular school day instead.
At Tanque Verde High School, the bell schedule will be modified to restore instructional time by extending class time, canceling half-days, changing block-period days and adjusting the schedule during finals week.
The district also extended its school year by two additional half-days, though Hagerman noted the “days will be opportunities for additional learning, but will not be required and will not factor into a student’s grade.”