School calendar debate heats up in Kanawha County

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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