As southern West Virginia thaws out from weeks of harsh winter weather, school officials are left scrambling to find ways to make up snow days caused by the recent deep-freeze.

And with a school calendar that is set in stone by the Legislature that mandates June 8 as the last day of school, some school days missed because of Mother Nature are never made up.

And that’s regardless of the fact that the law also says there must be 180 days of instruction time out of the 200 paid days for teachers.

Each of the state’s 55 counties are controlled locally by an elected school board and individually make decisions on school closings and how days are made up, state Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said.

“Each county is trying to make up as many days as possible,” Cordeiro said Thursday. “We must follow the letter of the law, and the Legislature has mandated that children cannot go to school past June 8.”

Cordeiro said some counties opt to have shorter Christmas and spring break vacations to help stem the tide of bad weather.

“There has been some discussion of making the school year longer, but that never came to fruition,” she said.

Other counties use four of their six Out of School Environment days of the year, also made into law by the Legislature, for make-up days. Teachers are paid for OSE days, but children don’t receive classroom instruction. Teachers are also paid for snow days that are never made up in the classroom, Cordeiro said.


Monroe County schools have been closed 12 times this school year — 11 since January — and Superintendent Lyn Guy said she’ll use four OSE days for class time missed because of inclement weather.

“We had days in March set aside as make-up days,” she said. “But what’s interesting is that the state employee contracts work on an inclusive 200 days, and once that’s adopted by the state Board of Education, then your are locked in. You can’t start school any earlier or end any later.”

Guy said she would like to see the Legislature have teachers “contracted for more than 200 days,” which would allow the proper amount of days for staff development.

In Greenbrier County, school has been canceled 11 days because of weather. Superintendent John Curry will also use four OSE days for make-up days, but that still leaves seven days of instruction gone by the wayside.

“The school calendar is very inflexible and the four OSE days are the only days we can use for make-up,” he said. “Our hands are tied. I believe the school calendar needs to be looked at.”

Summers County Superintendent Vicki Hinerman has canceled six hours of staff development time and will use those hours for instructional time. That, combined with four OSE days, will leave only one day missed out the six days of school closed by weather, she said.

“I think in most years we don’t miss that much school that it really impacts education by not making up a day or two,” Hinerman said.

Barbara Nichols, director of operations and public relations for Fayette County Schools, says inclement weather and freezing temperatures have forced officials to close school nine days this year.

Of those nine, only four will be made up as, Nichols said. The OSE days for Fayette County are scheduled for June 4-8, a time when, if the make-up days were not needed, would call for teachers only to report to school.

Raleigh and Nicholas counties are in similar shape. Students in Raleigh County have stayed home seven days and students in Nicholas County have enjoyed nine snow-filled days at home.

Both Raleigh and Nicholas will make up the four days at the end of the school year with the last day for students falling on June 8 in Nicholas and June 7 in Raleigh.

Wyoming County is in a little better shape. Superintendent Frank Blackwell says Wyoming has missed four days thus far which will be made up on March 9 and 16 and June 6 and 7, days originally intended as OSE days.

“We always schedule (the OSE) days,” Blackwell said, “but we never get to use them.”


In 2001, the state Board of Education passed a non-binding resolution that would allow school districts to offer 190 days of instruction and expand the school calendar to 210 days, but the Legislature failed to act on it, largely due to pressure from the state’s teachers union.

Kim Randolph, director of communications for the West Virginia Education Association, said Thursday that extending the school year beyond June 8 would cause a multitude of problems.

“Teachers are paid for a 200-day contract that falls within the time set by the Legislature,” Randolph said. “If you go outside June 8, then you are adding days onto their employment term.”

And what of the snow days that teachers are paid for, but never have classroom instruction? Randolph said many teachers will tack on extra homework if snow days are imminent.

“By the time winter begins, teachers are instructed to have extra lessons and take-home work,” she said. “Their contracts don’t say the teachers are employed for “X” number of instructional days, it says they are employed for 200 days.”

Additionally, a June 8 end date for school is reasonable because of hot weather and the outside schedules of teachers, Randolph said.

“There’s a lot of schools which don’t have air conditioning and it becomes difficult to teach and learn,” she said. “Plus, many teachers immediately start college classes and there are state activities scheduled for teachers also.”

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