The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 11, 2013

W.Va. Board of Ed OKs calendar policy changes

CHARLESTON — The state Board of Education has approved a policy that would give county school boards in West Virginia more flexibility to develop their school calendars.

The policy adopted Thursday would also hold boards more accountable for keeping students in school for 180 days, The Charleston Gazette ( reported.

Counties would be required to develop a calendar that guarantees at least that many days of instruction, including making up school days canceled because of inclement weather.

Joe Panetta, an assistant superintendent for the state Department of Education, said in the past, boards were required to schedule 180 days, “but if they had to cancel and didn’t have the time to make them up, they were forgiven.”

Last year alone, heavy snow from Superstorm Sandy toppled trees and power lines and forced students in some counties to miss more than a week of school in October and November. And a March 6 storm dumped up to 2 feet of snow that closed schools in more than half the state.

The policy, which is expected to go into effect in fall 2014, will be up for public comment for 30 days.

Before voting on a schedule, county school boards would have to hold at least two public hearings.

“This gives the entire community a chance to talk about the calendar now,” Panetta said.

State schools Superintendent Jim Phares said the policy is not aimed at addressing the question of year-round schools but it allows counties to develop a calendar that best fits their specific needs. School districts in areas that receive a lot of snow can choose to avoid sending students to class when bad weather is expected, he said.

“We’re not cracking down on counties,” he said. “We’re providing guidance. Our charge was to try to provide as much flexibility for counties in order to meet the guidelines.”

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