Education chief asks BOE to amend policy on instructional time

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COMMISSIONER of Education Dr. Alfred Ada  has reiterated his request to the Board of Education to amend the policy regarding the minimum instructional time for the Public School System.

As established by the BOE,  PSS provides 180 days of instruction to its students from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

In a previous BOE meeting, the commissioner proposed an instructional calendar with the following minimum instructional time:

  • 32,400 minutes of instructional time for kindergarten students
  • 64,800 minutes of instructional time for students in Grades 1- 5
  • 54,000 minutes of instructional time for students in Grades 6 - 8
  • 54,000 minutes of instructional for students in Grades 9 -12

Ada said the proposed instructional calendar provides “flexibility” in determining how these minutes are distributed.

“Considering we have only a four-day school week this coming school year due to the typhoon and the pandemic, we also anticipate budget shortfalls. So we need flexibility as we face future disasters, calamities and pandemics, and budget challenges,” Ada said.

The instructional calendar was discussed during the BOE instructional services and assessment committee meeting on Friday. BOE member Andrew Orsini chairs the committee.

Citing the health crisis and the economic downturn, Orsini agreed that PSS has to allow  school operations and teachers to have some flexibility.

“We have to adjust our approach without violating the law,” Orsini added.

He said Senate Bill 21-49 was introduced by Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider in January to amend the minimum instructional time for PSS, but the measure remains pending in the Senate.

In the absence of legislative action, Orsini asked guidance from PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu who said the school system has two ways to implement a new instructional calendar, one of which is for the Legislature to pass the bill. “This is the cleanest way of getting this done so that we are in line with the statute that governs the duration of the school year,” he said.

The second way, he added, is for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to suspend the regulations for the 180 days’ instruction.

Since the CNMI is still in a state of emergency, Mocanu said the governor has the ability to suspend both statute and regulations through an executive order.

However, he added, once the executive order is rescinded or the state of emergency  ends, PSS has to again provide 180 instructional days as required by law.

Mocanu said the BOE has no power to change the statute. “We can change the regulations all we want, but so long as the Education Act still mandates 180 days, we are stuck with 180 days.”

Mocanu said PSS should urge lawmakers to move forward with the passage of Senate Bill 21-49.

BOE member Philip Mendiola-Long noted that 731 seniors graduated without complying with the 180 instructional days regulation.

He said Senate Bill 21-49  should retroactively apply to the 2020 graduating class.

But right now, he said, the immediate relief would be to ask the governor to waive the 180 instructional days under his emergency power.








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