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Fresno Councilman Threatens to Sue FUSD Over Students' Lost Instruction Days
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
March 21, 2024

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias wants FUSD to put a halt to "nonlearning days" during the school year. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias warned the Fresno Unified School Board on Wednesday that trustees are risking a lawsuit if they don’t halt what Arias called “nonlearning days.”

During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s board meeting, Arias said his son, a sixth grader at Baird Middle School, has gone to school on the final day of the first two quarters this year without his backpack because he was told there would be no instruction that day.

Under state law and School Board policy, students are required to have a minimum of 180 days of instruction each school year. But Arias said his son and his schoolmates have already lost two instruction days and could lose seven more, including the final week of the school year.

Arias said his son is starting to fall behind on his core classes of reading, science, and math. The school’s response? Referrals to private tutoring that he would have to pay for, said Arias, a former Fresno Unified administrator before he was elected to the city council.

“If this is taking place at other school sites and across the district, the district would be rightfully in violation of the minimum instructional required minutes and days,” he said. “And, if that is the case and it continues for my child and others, I am formally asking you all to be on notice that I would pursue legal action and further steps to address that. Our kids shouldn’t be behind from the loss of in-person instruction.”

Social-Emotional ‘Rewards’ for Good Behavior?

Arias said he was told by school officials that the “nonlearning days” at the end of each quarter are a reward for well-behaved students such as his son. Instead of classwork, students watch movies or play football, Arias said his son has told him.

After speaking to teachers and school administrators, “they seem to have the impression that their focus is on social-emotional activities instead of instructional time,” he told the trustees.

Fresno Unified officials did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Friday afternoon, district spokeswoman Nikki Henry said that Baird students have more than the required number of instructional minutes and is not in violation.

Baird is providing incentives during the school year to encourage students in their academic achievement and their behavior, Henry said. “These incentives have included things like team building, social-emotional learning, a field trip to Defy, and an awards ceremony,” she said. “When doing team building or SEL, content teachers always tie the SEL lessons back to academic content as well.”

Contrary to Arias’ assertions, Fresno Unified does not have “noninstructional” days, Henry said.

District Tries to Recover From Pandemic Learning Losses

Taking time away from instruction seems counterintuitive for a school district where students are still struggling to catch up and close learning gaps that resulted when instruction went online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Fresno Unified students have shown progress in assessment testing since schools reopened to instruction, last year only about a third of the district’s 68,363 students were reading at or above grade level and less than a quarter were doing math at or above grade level.

Arias told GV Wire on Wednesday that “nonlearning days” seems to be a recent occurrence at Baird. When his daughter was a Baird student, there were no days devoted to social-emotional activities, he said.

He said he’s not opposed to nonlearning days, but they should be in addition to the 180-day school year, and not part of it.

Math Questions? Go to YouTube

Arias said that when his son turned to his teacher for help with math, he was directed to a YouTube video because his teacher did not have time to explain it in class.

Arias said he was speaking out now because the end of the third quarter comes after Easter and he wants to put the district and the trustees on notice that they need to “fix it.”

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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