OKLAHOMA CITY — It could cost taxpayers about $18 million per day, if legislators decide to extend the school year.

The Time Reform Task Force with the The Oklahoma Department of Education recently provided 12 recommendations to the State Board of Education on ways to maximize instructional time in schools, which included adding up to 17 days to the school year.

That would mean about a $126 million increase for next school year, $216 million for the following year and $306 million by 2010-11, under the recommendations.

Rep. Tad Jones, R-Claremore, plans to author legislation dealing with extending the school year but wants to look at the cost more closely. He said original discussions were to just add five days to the school year, rather than the eventual 17. He said he would also like to look at structuring the school year in hours rather than days so schools can be more flexible on their schedule.

One of the recommendations from the Time Reform Task Force focuses on teachers, administrators and parents evaluating how a school maximizes the school day to see if there are ways to improve.

Glenda Cobb, assistant superintendent for Duncan Public Schools and member of the task force, knows there are always days when there will not be a lot accomplished in school, such as before a holiday or on Halloween.

“There are visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, so to speak,” Cobb said.

She said there are also days lost for parent-teacher conferences, which is something she doesn’t believe parents realize.

Oklahoma law requires a minimum of 175 instructional days each year, which State Superintendent Sandy Garrett has previously said is the lowest number of instructional days in the region.

The task force recommends adding five instructional days and two parent-teacher conference days to the 2008-09 school year, then an additional five instructional days to the 2009-10 school year and another five days to the 2010-11 school year. That could mean 17 additional days added to the academic calendar.

Cobb realizes it will be a struggle to get legislators behind the plan.

“If parents and community members insist it gives legislators the political will to make that shift,” she said. “It is a paradigm shift.”

The recommendations are in the hands of the State Board of Education, which may decide at its December meeting what recommendations to include in a proposal to the governor and Legislature.

Todd Richards, a math teacher at Comanche Middle School near Duncan, said he would be happy teaching longer if the days were added before standardized testing.

“If they are productive days I would not be opposed to it,” he said.

Richards said there are not a lot of distractions on the average day, but students do leave constantly during the day for competitions and tryouts.

“It seems they’re always gone for something,” he said.

One of the task force’s proposals is to let local school districts decide whether to move activities to outside the school day. The local board may also decide whether to extend the school day, under the recommendations.

Woodward Superintendent Jeff Mills does not think moving activities to outside of the school day or extending the school day are feasible in his district.

“We have facility issues now,” he said, noting that if all activities are vying for the same facilities there won’t be enough time for everyone to practice.

He said adding an hour to the school day, for example, would also push activities later and students may be at practice until 8 p.m.

Josh Rosecrans, 18, a senior at Edmond Santa Fe High School, said the changes would not impact him but knows as an athlete it would be challenging if the school day was lengthened.

“I don’t see how you have time to squeeze everything in,” he said.

Mills, overall, was pleased with the recommendations in the report.

“I think the recommendations are bold; I think they’re good,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with extending the school year as long as it’s paid for.”

Richards also would like to see salary increases, equipment needs and facility improvements or creations paid for before a new mandate.

“They should appropriately fund the children’s education now,” he said.

“I’ve always had a concern about time. As a teacher it’s always hard to protect the time in the classroom,” said Lucy Smith, chair of the task force and retired superintendent from McAlester Public Schools. “As a superintendent I always felt there weren’t enough days.”

Jaclyn Houghton is CNHI News Service Oklahoma reporter.