The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 19, 2014

Schools struggle to make up lost days

Superintendents and school boards juggle calendar, rules

— With students across southern West Virginia missing more than a dozen days of school this year, thanks to Mother Nature, school superintendents and board members have stretched their calendars to the limit by adding instructional days and prolonging the school year.

But students won’t be able make up all of the instructional time lost, officials reported Tuesday.

Due to state restrictions, districts may not make up more than eight days — days that were previously granted by lawmakers to teachers in lieu of raises or for continuing education purposes.

In Raleigh, Monroe and Summers counties, each district has converted six out-of-school environment days and two continuing education days — previously non-instructional days — into school days for students, officials reported.

Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Jim Brown said Tuesday that the 14 instructional days Raleigh students have lost due to inclement weather cannot all be made up under state law.

Raleigh officials also converted Friday to an instructional day, but some parents were dismayed to learn that school will dismiss three hours early in order to accommodate a previously scheduled faculty senate meeting. State law also

requires that teachers vote to cancel a faculty senate meeting.

Brown explained that in order to cancel a faculty senate meeting, a consensus vote from all 29 county schools is required.

“Because of the timeliness, we didn’t have an opportunity to do that for this Friday,” said Brown.

Faculty must also have 24 hours in advance to create a senate agenda, he added.

“It’s not as easy as saying we’re going to reschedule it or going to cancel it,” Brown explained.

He added that, in hindsight, faculty senate could have reported on one of the missed days or two-hour delays to vote to reschedule the meeting.

“But for some reason, if we would have a two-hour delay between now and Friday, we would ask them to conduct that meeting during a missed instructional day or two-hour delay,” he said, adding that warmer weather is expected this week.

Monroe County officials Tuesday also reported the loss of 14 instructional days this school year, while Summers Superintendent Vickie Hinerman reported that Summers students have lost 15 days.

Calls to Wyoming, Greenbrier and Fayette school officials were not immediately returned Tuesday.

However, Fayette County Director of Nutrition David Seay reported Jan. 24 that Fayette BOE members were likely to follow the same strategy, and Greenbrier Schools Superintendent Sallie Dalton reported that BOE members would consider the option in order to make up instructional days.

Summers students will make up five instructional days in March and one in April and will add two days at the end of the year, ending the school year on May 28, said Hinerman.

“We can’t make up all 15 days, just those eight,” Hinerman noted.

Monroe officials reported that students will finish school June 10.

Raleigh students will finish school June 5, and spring break will not be impacted, Brown had reported at a January BOE meeting.

West Virginia Education Association Raleigh County Co-President Marie Hamrick reported in January that “out of school environment” days are personal days that state legislators had allocated to teachers in lieu of a pay raise several years ago.

Gradually, Hamrick said, the days were deigned make-up days for snow days — a move the majority of teachers around the state supports.

Hamrick assured parents during the same interview that students in Raleigh County get more instructional time each academic year than the state code mandates due to school days that provide more instructional minutes than what is required by law.

Greenbrier County Superintendent Sallie Dalton reported that Greenbrier students also receive more instructional minutes per year than the state code requires.

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The proposed 2014-2015 school calendar for Raleigh County Schools will be posted on the school website by noon today,  Brown said Tuesday.

Two public hearings — on the Feb. 25 BOE meeting and on March 11 — will be held before board members cast votes on the proposed calendar at the March 25 regular board meeting, said Brown.

By law, students must have 180 instructional days next academic year, giving local school boards more leeway in making up for snow days.

—  E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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