Ashland High School officials added 12 instructional hours to this academic year, after the state notified the school last month that it could loose accreditation if it did not increase instruction time.

Ashland High School officials added 12 instructional hours to this academic year, after the state notified the school last month that it could lose accreditation if it did not increase instruction time.

After speaking with Principal Jeff Schlecht, the Oregon Department of Education agreed to count time students spend with their teachers during after-school office hours as instructional hours, said Glenna Stiles, dean of students.

"We were totally scrambling, going, 'We've got to fix this,'" she said. "We were in jeopardy of losing accreditation and that's just not an option."

The school now meets the state requirement of 990 instructional hours per academic year, said Susanne Smith, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Education.

"The records show they're in compliance for the 2009-2010 school year," she said.

The school was short instructional hours because a few school days were eliminated this year due to budget cuts, Stiles said.

The state decided to count the teachers' office hours as instructional time because so many students take advantage of the time to get extra help or make up tests, and because the office hours are open to all students, Stiles said.

Teachers hold office hours from 1:45 to 2:10 p.m. on alternating school days.

"We're just relieved and pleased that we're finally getting some credit for all the hard work that teachers have been doing on their own with kids," Stiles said. "We've always known it's a best practice but we weren't always getting that validation from ODE."

School officials have tried to get the office hours approved as instructional time in the past, but the state declined to count them until this year, she said.

"This time we talked to the right person at ODE," she said. "We explained what the time was for and what the kids are using it for, and they said, 'Oh yeah, that totally counts.'"

It took the school about a week, in early February, to resolve the matter. During that week, school officials held meetings with students and teachers to try to determine the best way to make up the instructional hours.

Ideas included adding three minutes to every class period or holding class on Saturdays.

Teachers and students appear to be pleased with the solution, Stiles said.

"I think they all went from being, 'Oh gosh, what's happening,' to, 'Oh good, nothing's happening. We don't have to change anything.'"

Students are now required to sign in when they visit a teacher during office hours. The school did not previously keep track of how many students took advantage of the office hours.

"We haven't collected any data on that, but there's a heck of a lot of kids on campus during that time, in the library and the commons and the classrooms," Stiles said.

The school has been short instructional hours before. Last year, due to budget cuts, the school was short a handful of hours. Instead of immediately reinstating the missing hours, the district signed a one-year waver, Stiles said.

The district was also short instructional hours in the 2002-2003 academic year, but the hours were reinstated the following year, Smith said.

Stiles said she feels students are receiving enough instruction time.

"Last year, when we had the waver, we had fewer instructional hours and we got our very first outstanding rating from ODE and a silver medal award from U.S. News and World Report, which means we're in the top 3 percent of high schools in the nation," she said.

"Even with less instruction time, we did better than most everyone in the country."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.