HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The first bell of the school year is just a few days away for Cabell and Wayne county students. Class gets started on Thursday. In Kanawha County, it begins on Friday.

Cabell County Superintendent William Smith said the county has taken advantage of the earlier start date since the West Virginia Department of Education relaxed the calendar rules back in 2011.

“It’s so we can complete the first semester prior to the Christmas break, so that students don’t have to come back and prepare for finals when they’ve been out of school for three weeks,” explained Smith.

So far there’s not enough data to officially determine if the early start/early out semester is helping kids grade-wise but Smith said its something his staff is keeping an eye on.

“We haven’t been doing it long enough to know if there’s a correlation between the two. I doubt there is. Research doesn’t really bare that out except our grades are better in the high schools because the finals are closer to the time the students are in instruction,” according to Smith.

A majority of the state’s 55 counties will be starting back to class on August 15 or August 22, both Thursdays. In fact, the 22nd is the latest start date for any county.

The mountain counties have taken full advantage of the early start to make sure they get in 180 days of instruction, as required, by the state. In places where snow days can add up quickly the extra time on the calendar gives school systems several weeks of banked time in case of inclement weather.

Despite some problems with a new air conditioning system at Salt Rock Elementary all schools are a go for Thursday. Smith said they’re preparing for at least the same amount of students who attended last school year.

“We hit a peak of about 13-thousand last year. But Our Pre-K program is exploding right now, so we don’t know how many more we’ll have come in,” said Smith.

Even though Cabell County is the first to start class they won’t be the first ones out come summer break. In fact, one county will beat them by two weeks.

Kanawha County schools have the earliest out on May 16, followed by Mineral County on May 23 and Wayne County on May 28. Cabell County schools let out for the summer of 2014 on May 29.

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  • Jeffrey

    They push the start dates up while keeping the september 1 date for defining when children should start school. That means 3 year olds in PreK and 4 year olds in kindergarten.

  • JJ

    Year round schooling is primarily pushed by the teachers and the unions, who want leave more spread out over the year. Take out the 12 weeks of summer break and spread that around the school year (of course, retaining a still-lengthy summer stoppage) in addition to already established breaks and holidays and you've got one sweet existence. No more worry about using the (albeit few) paid leave days they get. Everyone talks about how hard a teacher's job is (and I'll grant you much of it is, especially in this sue-happy world) but no one ever talks about the incredible number of days off they have, at least comparative to the average worker. Year round schooling has less to do with the eduction and more to do with the educators.

    • Mac

      Sorry JJ, but you just don't get it. So, lets try again. The STATE sets the number of instruction days! What most people don't understand is that the service personnel (bus drivers, custodians, cooks, etc.) can only work a certain number of days to open and close school along with the regular teaching days. In order to change that, the Service Personnel Union would have to re-negotiate their contracts if additional days are added. THEY are the ones who drive the legislature with their strong-arm union tactics. NOT the teachers!

    • Michael

      I totally disagree. Many teachers, bus drivers and county employees are exactly the opposite. Many of these employees have to take second jobs to offset the lower salaries and use the summer months to do so. Also, many of the bus drivers are also farmers who lose precious time tending their fields. Bottom line is our legislators feel we have fallen behind countries in education. Many of those countries only send their brightest students on through school. The less fortunate students are sent to the factories at young ages are completely forgotten. We try to educate every child through the age of 18.

  • susanf

    It is ironic that two of the schools starting the earliest are in counties which are likely to have the fewest snow days to make up. Changing the school calendar to allow for earlier start dates is just another sneaky step toward year round school, which is ultimately the goal. And the proponents of year round school continue to ignore any and all research that has shown little to NO improvements in academic performance using the year round model vs. the traditional school calendar. As reported in this article,
    "So far there's not enough data to officially determine if the early start/early out semester is helping kids grade-wise" and according to Superintendent Smith of Cabell County who is, I believe, a proponent of year round school, "We haven't been doing it long enough to know if there's a correlation between the two. I doubt there is. Research doesn't really bare (misspelled in the article - should be bear) that out". . . So WHY are they doing this then, if there is no evidence or conclusive proof that it is any more effective or beneficial to the students??

  • OldMike

    Why would anyone with half a brain start the new school year on Friday? School Boards are totally detached from the kids.

  • Michael

    I wish the people making the laws on starting dates would actually think of the kids here instead of what looks good on paper. The same people changing the dates to start in the middle of summer are the same ones who followed the calendars of old. Ask any of our legislators how many of them ever made a full 180 days of instruction. Looks like they turned out reasonably ok. I thinkk it is rediculous to expect these kids to start in early August. They aren't gaining anything with this except more burnt out students.