Want to start a heated debate at your home or workplace?  Pose the question of whether West Virginia public schools close too often because of bad weather.

Some folks begin with, “well, when I was a kid they never called off school.”  Others say we’ve become wimps about bad weather, but you will also hear parents argue that children should not be waiting outside for the bus when it’s four degrees.

As of yesterday, Kanawha County, the state’s largest school district, has had only three-and-a-half days of school since the Christmas break due to the weather and the water emergency.

Through it all, I pity the county school superintendents.  Regardless of the decision—hold classes or cancel school—about half the parents are angry.  I give the supers the benefit of the doubt that they are doing what they believe is in the best interest of student safety.

Part of the problem is the antiquated school calendar.  We’re still beholden to the old agrarian mindset that kids need the summers off to work on the farm.  Public schools should operate, like virtually everything else, on a year-round schedule with interspersed breaks.

West Virginia schools have the option of year-round school (called “balanced calendar”), but few choose it. The current school calendar is a logistical nightmare and not conducive to knowledge retention from year to year, but it’s familiar.  All involved have become comfortable with building the rest of their lives around it.

Next year, however, things change.  The education reform bill passed by the Legislature last year (SB 359) is designed to give counties more flexibility when figuring out when children should go to school and how to have 180 days of instruction.

Here are some of the key elements of the new law, as defined by the state Board of Education.

–County school boards must have at least two public hearings so all interested and affected parties can have input on the calendar.

–Counties must have 180 days of instruction.  Currently, counties are supposed to have 180 days in class, but if there’s a bad winter, many counties fall short.

–The beginning and ending dates for the employment term for teachers and service workers have been extended from 43 to 48 weeks.  That gives counties more time to reach 180 days if they miss a lot of snow days.

–School systems must add minutes of instruction to the school day or additional instructional days to make up for time lost due to delayed school openings or early closings.

These and other changes in the calendar won’t end the debates over whether to have school when it snows, but they will ensure that lost time will be made up.

 

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Comments

  • fed up

    Reading through all the comments, no one has mentioned the threat of lawsuits. Could you imagine if schools were not closed on a snowy day and there was a minor accident, or worse? Any and all parents, right or wrong, would jump on the bandwagon seeing dollar signs in their eyes. Could this be a reason most county board systems close school-impending threat of lawsuits and eventual bankruptcy?

  • rick

    Schools used to be smaller and closer. Travel was at a minimum. Even in much worse weather we had school.

  • jim

    The goal is year round school.Better programming of socialist thought.

  • Myron

    I believe it is far past time for WV teachers to demand the respect they have earned. What other professionals bring the amount of work home we do, work weekends and holidays, and have the level of accountability we do?!

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Amazing how those who didn't give a hoot for their own education years ago can suddenly become experts in a field for which disdain is all they express.

  • wvman75

    http://homes.yahoo.com/photos/states-with-the-worst-schools-1389810485-slideshow/

    No quality or quantity apparently.

  • The bookmen

    horse hockey

  • Jonus Grumby

    The brick-wall date for the end of school (June 8) needs to go away. The kids are required to be in class for 180 days. If the superintendents wish to close school because of the perception of poor conditions, that's fine. We should err on the side of caution, right? But if it takes us beyond the magical date of June 8th for students to get the required instructional time and final testing, so be it. We can't have it both ways.

  • Chris

    A shortened summer break takes away educational enrichment opportunities that children just don't get at school. 4-H camp, Boy/Girl Scout camps, library story sessions, theater, band, sports....plenty of children are still learning during the summer. Theyre getting experiences that will grow their perspectives on life, and in many cases getting more physical activity than they would in the same time at school. These activities make our children well-rounded individuals, rather than just robots trained to spit out facts to pass a test. Shorten Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring breaks...preserving summer for our children is far more important to their growth than checking off a box saying they went to school for the "right" amount of days.

  • Neal

    Why not simply keep the summer break but require all counties to hit 180 days even if it means going into July to make up snow days. This will be the best of both worlds. Counties will think twice about cancelling for snow because they know there will be a day tacked on at the end to make it up, you'll please the people who want to keep their summer break (vacations, summer jobs, etc.), and you'll please the people who want to make sure kids get enough class time. The only problem might be with the teachers' union which would have to agree to it.

  • jojo

    The problem with the 180 days is they are not used for educational purposes. The week before a break is often wasted. Movies are a big part of the school day before breaks or fun days or other useless use of school time. Use the 180 days for instructional time only would be a great benefit to the children. The last few days (or even weeks) before summer is spent on school trips, running through the halls to simply get out of the classroom..

  • Henry

    While we're on the subject of schooling; why do your people at wvmetro news use the W.Va. in the bylines of their features? The USPS changed that in 1963 to use the WV abbreviation when addressing. Your continued use of it contributes to the notion that it's "West or Western Virginia" which is another state entirely. Thank you.

  • Lyla Howell

    I firmly believe that the present school calendar is antiquated and WV should have year-round school. Not only for knowledge retention, but also to provide teachers with 12 month employment and parents the option of winter as well as summer vacation opportunities. Students no longer work on the farm in the summer and many , as in Pocahontas County, are employed part time at the ski resorts in the winter.

  • leon

    REALLY ??? A couple of disgruntled "know nothings" on a slow day in WAJR morning show start complaining because in their vast knowledge and experience they have ALL the answers, and we get into this ! It's winter in West Viginia . It's an unusually harsh and bitter winter. One which we have not had for a significant number of years and more than likely will not be consistently repeated. As many days as possible will be made up. The world won't end, the destruction of the West Virginia youth will not occur. No one will fall further behind the rest of the world. We will get over this crisis and get back to normal as soon as weather clears.
    Get over it and move on and deal with real issues. To the slugs in studio at WAJR that conjured this up, suggestions: 1. Run for BOE, 2. Get a teaching and administration degree, 3. Shut-up and thank the educators that helped you articulate the ignorance you spew, 4. Hire a babysitter because that is at the crust of your complaints, 5> you all stated assignments on internet should be given. Im older than all of you and we had snow days. We read, thats right read anything, encyclopedia you name it. It was monitored by a mom in the house.
    Bottom line snow days are hated because normal day care is not taken care of for your precious bundle that you would be the first to attack anyone that put them out in cold.

  • Greg Crist

    Who is the high paid "expert" who came up with 180 days as the magical "lets be smart" number? Why not 200? Because the state would have to pay teachers more. Eeek! The media (including you Hoppy) and the state BOE continue to brainwash people into believing that we MUST get 180 days in or it s some sort of major injustice to our kids. Geez, if our legislators truly want to reform education they would include those of us who are in the system to find out what needs to be reformed. Instead of just doing things that look good to the public like making sure we get 180 days in. That will have no impact on the problems with the system. So, you guys keep on brainwashing and maybe things will get better on their own. Until then lets burn everybody out making sure they are smarter by getting 180 days under their belts!!