Published On: Wed, Jan 22nd, 2014

BOE to hold public meetings about new school calendar

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In response to the State Department of Education’s requirements, the board of education will hold two public meetings to discuss the new changes to the school calendar.

As part of the new school calendar policy, the state expects all schools to have 180 instruction days. Prior to this policy, schools were not penalized if they did not reach the 180 day mark due to snow days, disasters or other issues.

Now, the school system has to have plans to make up every missed day, even if it means classes extend into summer vacation.

“We have to make the decision on how we’re going to make that one hundred eighty day requirement and that is where the board comes in,” Director of Federal Programs Terrence Beam explained at the board of education meeting last week. “Starting July 1, we will have to make up any two-hour delay we have, any two-hour early dismissal, any faculty senate meeting we have on school time, any collaboration time we want to give to our teachers.”

Beam said what will help the schools is the accrued time that has been built up over the years.

“For an example, I got an email sent to me that said a school had twenty minutes accrued time [each day], over one hundred eighty days, that’s three thousand, six hundred minutes,” he said. “[That] equals thirty two-hour delays, two-hour dismissals or faculty senate meetings. We’re not going to have thirty of those, hopefully, so then you may be able to use some of those for these purposes.”

The hardest part of planning the calendar is looking into the future and planning for bad weather and disasters that may or may not happen.

“Where the county gets a little sticky wicket is if we have a snow day, the board has to decide how we’re going to make up our days and it needs to be decided before school starts because you’re going to have people saying, ‘they missed a day of school, when are we going to have to make it up?’ Beam said. “The board has to make the decision if you have five snow days in December, when do we start making those up? Do we go toward the end? Do we make up as soon as possible?”

Beam is concerned about expecting students and staff to be in school longer in June, a time when the temperature in the classrooms may be unbearable and attention spans could be at an all time low.

“If we had fifteen snow days, for example – which is very possible – based on the calendar we have right now, we couldn’t do anything with Easter break because it’s out of calendar, we would be going to the twenty-second of June,” he said. “Now, how much interest are you going to have from teachers and students going to school in June?”

Beam added that if there is a disaster – like the current water issue in Charleston – where schools cannot be in session, the system is still required to make up that time. Another example, if the town of Marlinton floods and Marlinton Elementary School is closed for a week school will go a week longer than the other schools in Pocahontas County.

Beam explained that there are several ways in which the days may be made up. The time can be added to the end of the calendar, which is not a popular choice; the days can be taken out of vacation time, including Thanksgiving and Christmas; or the board can choose to have school on snowy days and just run the buses on the main roads.

For the latter, Beam said parents on back roads can either bring their students out to meet the buses, drive them to school or keep them home if they fear for their safety.

The two public meetings will give parents, staff and students the opportunity to share their opinions on how they feel the calendar should be handled.

The public meetings will be Monday, February 3, at 7 p.m. at Marlinton Middle School and Monday, February 17, at 7 p.m. at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School. Parents of students from all county schools are asked to attend one of the meetings to gain more information.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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