CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The school calendar issue heated up Thursday as parents and faculty spoke out against starting school too early.

At its regular meeting, the Kanawha County Board of Education was given basically two options for next year’s school calendar. One of them would involve a mid-August start while the other option involved a start date similar to the one used this school year of August 9.

To get an idea of the county faculty’s preferences for the calendar, the board held a survey Monday which only brought with it more controversy. Before staff took a vote, they were told that, depending on the outcome, the distribution of their monthly checks could be impacted.

“The controversy is if they vote for the late August start or the mid-August start, there will be a period of time when they may not receive a paycheck simply because the school years overlapped,” said Dinah Adkins, president of the Kanawha County Education Association (KCEA), the local affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA).

Adkins told board members that they conducted their own survey and realized that most KCEA members are not in favor of an early start but voted for the early start because they had to.

“Many called me and texted me and said they did not want the early start, they did not support the early start, but they felt like they’ve been backed into a corner and had to vote for it because they couldn’t afford to miss a paycheck,” she said.

Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring defended the move by adding it was only fair that faculty and staff be made aware of the payroll particulars up front.

In addition, Adkins said most parents she had talked to did like the early start mainly because they want August for family time and taking vacations together.

Parent Donna Caruthers told board members an early start would mean school would get out in the spring weeks before athletic activities would end, meaning more hassle for parents and students needing to get to events.

“You have to get them to practices, where as they may stay for practice after school, but if they are already out of school then you have to get them to practice and home and so forth and to all the games and everything,” she said.

Caruthers also said it would take away from time spent with her son.

Board members will discuss the school calendar again at their next meeting in November before even considering when to take a vote on the matter.

Board President Pete Thaw, who maintains his stance against any kind of early start,  said they plan to take their time on this issue because they really want to get input from staff and most importantly from the parents.

“We’ve got to have input from the parents,” he said. “We’ve got to have their cooperation.”

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  • teach

    Some people claim the taxpayers are being cheated when snow days are called and teachers are not instructing students. They claim a teacher is contracted to provide 180 days of educational services to students and therefore should fulfill the obligation. No teacher would disagree with this claim. The caveat is that no teacher has any input into the call for a snow day. This decision ultimately lies with the local county school superintendent. Apparently road conditions are not good enough for us to attend school. Maybe the taxpayers are being cheated by the WV Department of Highways as well.

    Here is a novel idea….No snow days unless there is a state of emergency issued! Our bus drivers have received all necessary training to operate their equipment in the safest possible manner. The taxpayers have paid for the buses to be equipped with automatic tire chains. Our buses are the subject of stringent safety inspections. The bus drivers know their routes the best. Let the bus drivers make the call as to whether they run their complete routes during inclement weather. Let’s hear a bus cancellation list on the radio, TV, texts or calling system! Many parents even opt to transport their own children to school on a regular basis anyway.

    For the record, a traditional school calendar should start in late August and end early-June. The public should also know that the WV Department of Education and the WV State Board of Education are encouraging counties to adopt a balanced school calendar. A balanced school calendar is all year round school. These folks claim a balanced calendar alleviates the learning loss caused by long breaks away from school. If a student does not retain information over the break, they did not grasp the concept in the beginning! If you schedule a root canal, you better ask if your dentist has performed one in the last three months. They may have forgot how to do it. Ouch! This learning loss idea is held up with research. However, there is also research available stating a balanced calendar does not allow students to function in a set routine. Balanced calendars do what they say…they balance time out of school with time in school, but everyone must remember that we still have to go 180 days. Traditional calendars group the vacation into the summer months thus limiting the routine adjustments students are subjected to. Nobody should hide behind research from a university or foundation. There is always additional research to prove the opposite.

    Many high school students and teachers work part time jobs during their summer breaks in traditional school calendars. A balanced calendar does not allow this opportunity. How many part time jobs are available for a few weeks in January? And who wants to go to the beach in September during Hurricane season. Young people can learn more life lessons during a summer break than can ever be taught in the classroom. The 4-H organization is only one example. 4-H members can attend their county camps as well as many state and national level camps. The relationships, contacts and personal networking that result from these activities are invaluable to member’s success in the world. As I said this is only one example. Take a look into the FFA, Boy Scouts, or Girl Scouts organizations, and Sports Camps. What about the various science, conservation and cultural groups? The list is long. Many teachers on summer break volunteer their time to help with these organizations.

    Some public meetings have been scheduled throughout the state by County Boards of Education for parents to offer comments concerning the school calendar. This is required by state code. However, the public has been offered little information regarding the calendar. A few dates have been mentioned in passing during board meetings, but little else. Even if proposed calendars are distributed at the meetings, the handout is confusing and is not readily discernible to the general public.

    The public to understand the effect the actions of county boards of education is about to have on their family time together and the lives of students. County boards of education need to remember that their is as much education learned outside the classroom as inside. Everyone needs to remember that these folks are elected to their position. The WV State Board of Education is appointed by the Governor, an elected official. Get out and vote.

  • a concerned educator

    It can be more difficult for schools that have year round schedules to schedule athletic events with other counties that do not have the year round school schedule. In addition, I know that some schools that have gone to the year round schedule in Indiana have actually gone back to the traditional schedule due to problems with athletic scheduling.

    Another issue with year round schooling is scheduling technical education between counties that share a technical school. All the counties that attend that school would have to agree to a year round schedule for the technical school to function. This may be difficult in some instances.

  • Walsingham

    An early start would be more beneficial to football and related fall activities. There are many kids that are required to be on school campuses two weeks before school officially starts. Those families have to cut their vacation planning and activities short, and have to arrange transportation , etc.. All of this scheduling business is traditional and arbitrary. You make parents mad either way. Just make a plan and stick to it.

  • a concerned educator

    The State of Virginia recently completed a study of school systems in that state that chose year round schooling. The results of the study indicated that year round schooling is actually 3% more expensive. In addition, year round schooling DID NOT increase student achievement scores on state/national tests, except for students who were black.

    Do we really want to add to the cost of our educational system in WV? In addition, there are still schools that do not have air conditioning or that have air conditioning systems that do not work effectively.

    • realitycheck

      the purpose of year round school is nothing more than to babysit troubled or at risk kids, because their families have failed.

      • Educator 101

        That's correct. There is NO accountability to parents. If year round is so successful, look at Mary C Snow aka West Side. They have every piece of technology available, everything brand new because that helps learning , and have been going year round for quite some time. 2011 they had the lowest test scores in the entire state of WV. They started year round to make sure parents had no accountability and for free food.

  • mntnman

    Decisions should always be made with the child and their academic achievement first and foremost -- not parents, not staff, not administrators, not sports. For too long, we have made decisions for all sorts of reasons unrelated to achievement. That must stop.

    • GregG

      I agree mntnman, but I would also add..........Seems pretty strange that most of the people that are around my age did very well in school and did very well after they entered the workforce. Guess what? We got out of school at the end of May and didn't start back until the first of September. Wake up people, it is the quality of teaching you receive while in the classroom. It doesn't have a thing to do with what month you start, how many months you go or how long the school day happens to be.

      • Marsha Skinner

        I agree wholeheartedly to this statement. It is not how long they go it is how they are taught at HOME and at SCHOOL.

      • a concerned educator


        Your statement is quite true. Many of the individuals in Charleston like to compare our students to those in Finland. However, what they will not tell you is that students in Finland only go to school 170 days per year, and their school day is shorter than ours. In addition, teachers in Finland receive 140 hours of inservice training each year compared to 18 in West Virginia. Finally, the socio-economic status in Finland is much higher than in WV.

        • wvu999

          Finland is a socialist society, too.
          Something to consider

    • The bookman

      I agree...and most of what is discussed as critical educational pivots in policy have little or no effect on those results...ask anyone involved...achievement is maximized by engaged parents who take ownership of their child's success...the rest of it is smoke and mirrors...easy to lay it on teachers and school systems...

      • Educator 101

        Well said. The public school parents should be required to work in a school for a week when their child receives the free public education we have. Go behind closed doors. Policies are made, curriculum adopted, calendars changed etc. to the benefit of the mighty budget. How much federal $ for adopting new standards? It should be students first and it is publicly, but then the calculator comes out. There is no respect for education/educators. Visit a country where children beg to be a student and appreciate- not expect- sacrifices for their benefit.

  • jfk

    some have said starting early is better because it is so hot, well weather in WV is traditionally hotter and humid in early August, conversely not as hot and humid in lat May early June. Also with todays technology there should be a way to NOT miss a pay check that seems weak to me.

  • The bookman

    Year round calendars typically start late July early august...the early start by many of the state's county school systems is no more than the slow and deliberate removal of the stigma of being in school at those times of the year...they have been walking the start dates back for many years now...removes one of the more common battle cries against year round calendars of it being too hot for students or inconvenient to parents to be in school in August...part of the strategy...

  • Educator 101

    Ron Duerring's concern is what puffs up his resume. When did the education system start putting parents first instead of teachers? That's a big problem now. Parents and students feel they have the right to make any decision they want. We are treated by parents and students (kids) that we work for them. That's a big problem in the public education system.

    • Joe

      Since you brought it up Educator, who do teachers work for then? Who are they accountable to for their performance? Honest questions that, to be honest, have alluded me since I started to ask that question.

      Thanks in advance,


      • Educator 101

        Absolutely I understand most educators are paid by tax dollars. I did not state my point appropriately. Of course the #1 priority is a child's education. My issue involves respect. Educators are not given the respect they deserve-especially from parents. Those parents are few and far between. Their attitudes about teachers are reflected by the disrespect of students. This was not acceptable when I was a student and I'm only in my thirties.

        • Leo

          Thank you, very well put. I will reiterate what I have said before, the problem is the lack of accountability in the students and their parents. We as teachers are the only ones held accountable, and yes you are correct, the students and parents run the schools now.

  • Spell Checker

    As a retired educator I can tell you that all school decisions are based on dollars rather than "innovative education practices based on research". The school calendar just happens to be the latest target. Controversies like this typifies what occurs when non-educators become overnight specialists in the field via the ballot box.

    Next year's focus: changing sunrise/sunset.

    • Spell Checker

      Please excuse error: "typify".

      • a concerned educator

        Spell Checker

        I completely agree with you. The calendar change is this year's "Flavor of the Month" with our "friends" in Charleston. As you stated quite well, until educators are allowed to make decisions for education, the same old, same old of politics will continue governing our education system. I have often asked the department of education why it is that only doctors serve on the state medical association board and only attorneys serve on the state bar association, but non-educators make up the state board of education?

        • Wirerowe

          That has not always been the case In the past he board at times has had a number of WVEA members . Some would think that there is a conflict for past and current educators to be on a public board. The state board oversees public education whereas the state bar and medical associations are professional organizations. While there is a difference I would agree that general citizens should be on the bar and the doctor's boards to give more independence.

          • Wirerowe

            De nada. Thank you for being gracious.

          • a concerned educator


            Thank you for providing this information. I always try and make sure that my statements are correct before I post them. In this case, however, I was incorrect.

  • a concerned educator

    There is no evidence that starting early benefits students. However, there is a financial impact on local pools, parks, etc. because students cannot visit these places, thus reducing the amount of money being spent to support them. I read where the Kanawha County Park System had issues with finances during August this past summer. I am sure that some of this loss was caused by the early start of school.

    In addition, many students work in the summer, either to support themselves or earn money for college. Starting school early really cuts in to this work time.

    Starting early does impact family time and vacations. For many individuals, August is when they have the opportunity to take vacation, and the weather is at its peak at the beaches many West Virginians visit. Not everyone has the opportunity to vacation in June or July, and in some areas of West Virginia, especially the mountain areas, it can still be a little chilly to camp and swim in the lakes and rivers during June.

    Change just for the sake of change does no good. Just leave the calendar as it used to be (without the early start) and give teachers the time to teach.

    • Marsha Skinner

      Very well stated! Just what I wanted to say.

    • Tom

      WELL said!