By Sarah Plummer
While this winter has seen near record highs, the more than two feet of snow around Halloween and a recent wintry blast have taken a toll on snow days built into individual counties’ school calendars.
With 27 West Virginia school districts closed and another 21 on two-hour delay Monday, many districts have exhausted the number of snow days they can miss without running the risk of cutting into their 180 days of instructional time.
On Monday, Raleigh County Schools used their eighth and last cancellation day, reported Superintendent Jim Brown.
Brown said the county’s leadership committee has discussed what the district will do if they must again cancel school for inclement weather.
“We will do our very best to minimize teachers’ time out of the classrooms for professional development and maximize instruction,” he said. “No one can predict the weather, but we are optimistic for an early spring.”
Beverly Kingery, Nicholas County superintendent, said Nicholas has used a total of 10 days, two more than were built into their calendar.
The October Superstorm, which hit Nicholas County harder than most places, prevented school from being in session for an entire week, she explained.
She said the district will be canceling its early release days in March and April and using those to add as much additional instruction time as possible.
Superintendent Keith Butcher said Fayette County had five days built into its calendar and Monday marked the sixth day they have been forced to cancel classes due to accumulation or cold.
He said October’s storm not only caused snow clearing issues for the county, it caused facility problems, too.
Summers County has used nine cancellation days, eight of which can be made up on its calendar, reported Superintendent Vicki Hinerman.
Several of those were missed in October, she said, but an additional day was taken last week due to flooding.
Wyoming County Superintendent Fred Blackwell said Wyoming, like Raleigh, has missed eight days, the number allotted in its calendar.
Four of those days were missed in October and two were canceled due to this latest storm, he said.
Last year’s mild winter allowed most counties across the area to reach the mandated 180 days of instructional time, with Raleigh, Wyoming, Fayette, Summers and Greenbrier counties only missing between two and four days for snow.
The 2010-2011 school year, however, saw high numbers of school cancellation days as moderate to heavy snowstorms swept through the area repeatedly.
Most districts in the surrounding area, including Raleigh and Fayette, missed 15 days or more during 2010-2011.
All county school calendars vary when it comes to when classes begin and end for each academic year. But according to state code, the scheduled last day of classes cannot be extended even if the school system has not achieved the mandated 180 days of instructional time. Several counties build snow days into the back end of their calendars and if they are not used, classes may be dismissed earlier; however, it won’t be the case for many of the aforementioned school systems in our region this academic year.
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