Portland puts plan in motion to make up learning time lost to strike, storms

By Natalie Pate (OPB)
March 13, 2024 6:46 p.m.

Oregon’s largest school district will apply for a waiver from the state, make up time for high school seniors and fall out of compliance to keep full recess times for kindergarteners

A blue sky and a brick building with a flag in the background. A group of three students and a single student behind them walk toward the school on the sidewalk.

FILE - Students walk into Roosevelt High School in North Portland on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. Students had been out of class for weeks as Portland Public Schools teachers remained on strike Nov. 1 through Nov. 26, when a tentative agreement was reached.

Natalie Pate / OPB

A plan is in place to help Portland Public Schools meet state minimums for required instructional hours. Or at least it got close.


Following the teachers strike in November and severe storms in January, Portland students have lost a lot of learning time. Students at opposite ends of their K-12 careers — kindergarteners and high school seniors — have the most instructional time to recover in order to stay in compliance with state minimums.

Oregon, under a rule commonly known as “Division 22,″ requires districts to ensure the majority of students receive between 900 and 990 hours of instruction each year, depending on grade level.

Adding to the complex problem facing PPS, a handful of individual schools were hit harder by the recent storms and are facing greater instruction time deficits, on top of needing long-term facility repairs.

The district took steps back in the fall when the strike ended, such as turning half of winter break into instructional time, to help fill the gap. But after a repeatedly disrupted year, Portland has limited options to make changes this term.

The school board Tuesday decided to move ahead by having the district apply for a waiver from the state, which would effectively reduce instruction time requirements by 14 hours.

The district will also convert some time previously set aside for standardized testing and professional development to get more hours for high school seniors.


The board considered taking away some recess time in April for kindergarteners but ultimately decided to keep outdoor play time for the district’s youngest students.

However, that means PPS will be out of compliance for that grade level.

Board member Andrew Scott emphasized that play is essential to students’ overall learning, especially for the younger students.

During the board discussion Tuesday, Scott said: “I actually would be in favor of us just straight-up violating the Division 22 guidelines this year and saying, ‘You know what, it is more important for our kindergarteners to get the additional 15 minutes of recess than to meet those minimum standards the state sets.’”

District leaders will have to explain to the state how they will avoid this issue in the future, or request a specific exemption for the kindergarteners.

FILE - A student takes notes during class at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., Oct. 3, 2023. The school district has a plan to make up for instruction time lost to the teachers strike and winter storms.

FILE - A student takes notes during class at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., Oct. 3, 2023. The school district has a plan to make up for instruction time lost to the teachers strike and winter storms.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Board member Julia Brim-Edwards supported the amendment to keep recess time for kindergarteners. However, she was the sole vote against the overall plan, saying she doesn’t support seeking a waiver and allowing the district to get away with less instructional time.

She stressed the impact of lost learning time on students during the pandemic and the strike, and argued Oregon isn’t keeping up with other states when it comes to instructional time requirements.

“Oregon already has one of the shortest ... school years in the country,” Brim-Edwards told the board. “And so, when we are moving the hours around, so that we meet the bare minimum, it’s not what our students need in order to catch up from COVID or just be on pace to be able to perform at class level.”

The Salem-Keizer school board Tuesday night also approved a district request to apply for the state’s 14-hour waiver.