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School days could get longer

More daily instruction time would offset four teacher pupil-free days.

May 11, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • La Canada High School students greet each other during the first day of school at the La Canada Flintridge school on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. (Raul Roa/News-Press)
La Canada High School students greet each other during…

Teachers in La Cañada Unified could receive four pupil-free days next year for professional development and collaboration next year if the school board approves a recommendation that first appeared on its agenda Tuesday. A final decision is expected May 31.

The recommendation for providing teachers with four pupil-free days came out of negotiations between the district and La Cañada Teacher’s Association. Both parties agreed to increasing the length of the school day in the district by a few minutes to account for the missed instructional time created by the pupil-free days.

“I think [the pupil-free days] are something that will be extremely advantageous for our instructional programming. The extra instructional time will make up for those four days,” said Wendy Sinnette, the assistant superintendent of human resources who is poised to become superintendent at the end of this school year.

The four pupil-free days will “allow teachers to get on the same page, calibrate instruction and make sure positive things are happening across the board,” Sinnette said.

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School board member Joel Peterson said he didn’t think adding two extra minutes to a class would make up for the four days of continuous instruction students are losing in the long run.

According to the recommendation, the slight increase would give next year’s La Cañada High School students more instructional minutes than this year, totaling approximately 3.9 more hours over the course of the school year.

“We’re saying [that] adding two minutes to classes makes up for it, but that does not make up for it,” said Peterson, calling the move misleading.

Susan Boyd, school board president, said it’s the only way to give the pupil-free days within the current contract.

“It’s just a way for us to be able to come up with the additional days that we need,” Boyd said.

Ron Dietel, a former La Cañada school board member and the assistant director for research, use and communications at the UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, addressed the board during Tuesday’s meeting and suggested developing a written plan for what will be accomplished from the pupil-free days.

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