The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 5, 2013

Maxed out ... again

Education reforms must include year-round school

— Back in October many county school systems in West Virginia got an unwelcome “trick” for Halloween when a hurricane-generated storm system roared through much of the state and forced classes to be canceled for several days.

In Nicholas County, where snowfall totals in some places far exceeded 30 inches, schools weren’t in session for a week. And the official start of winter was still more than seven weeks away.

Superintendents and other school officials had to be cringing then, like they are now. Winter is just halfway gone and most school systems across our region have maxed out their scheduled snow days.

Another academic year in our public schools in which the mandated 180 days of instructional time won’t be met is all but a certainty, unless you believe the 50 degree heatwave coming in a few days is going to continue through March.

This issue has been talked about, and talked about, and talked about ... and talked about. Yet, no real solutions have been put in place.

Yes, some flexibility in how counties determine academic year start dates has been instituted. But even with that, the problem still hasn’t been fixed.

In recent years, the concept of year-round schooling in West Virginia has been picking up momentum and with education reform being touted in Charleston as one of the key issues before the 81st Legislature, there is no better time than the present for lawmakers to begin taking bold steps toward ensuring adequate instructional time in the classroom.

Some semblance of year-round schooling has to be in the equation.

Last week, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee told us that student achievement has to be the priority. We agree. But for that to happen they have to be in school. The only way a guarantee of instructional time can happen is if the calendar becomes completely flexible with make-up days figured in.

Nobody that we know can sit around and say “‘All right, the last two weeks of January next year are going to be icy with lots of snow so we won’t go then.” Doesn’t happen; sorry Farmer’s Almanac.

And as for the argument of vacations and days off, it can still be done with definite days being labeled as off no matter what. But to just say we can’t go to school any further into June, or start before this particular day in August isn’t reasonable.

So as snow days pile up, and students miss out on being in school, we continue to gyp our next generation when it comes to academics.