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Jefferson County BOE amends school calendar

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By Jenni Vincent - Journal Staff Writer 

CHARLES TOWN - Jefferson County Board of Education vice president Scott Sudduth was passionate, but unsuccessful in his attempt at Monday night's meeting to convince others to consider - and ultimately use - some alternate methods for making up student instructional time lost due to severe winter weather.

In the end, board members supported superintendent Susan Wall's plan for converting existing days on the calendar into instructional days. Sudduth cast the lone dissenting vote against the recommendation.

As a result, students will have instructional days on June 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11. June 12 will be the last day of school for students and they will be dismissed two hours early to allow for faculty senate meetings.

April 21 will also be an instructional day but students will have a two-hour delay in the morning to allow for faculty senate meetings.

Sudduth had suggested using the district's spring break, April 14-18, for additional instructional time - a change that would be hard to make at this late date, according to Wall, who said many staff, students and families already have plans.

She said there would be a high absenteeism rate among students and staff, requiring more substitute teachers to be used during that period.

Since many other areas have experienced similar weather-related problems - Jefferson County students missed 16 days and had seven two-hour delays - Sudduth also suggested requesting that the state Department of Education postpone the WESTEST standardized exam which gets underway April 28 and lasts throughout May.

He said it wasn't fair to test students when they had missed so much school, and he predicted there would be more cooperation than officials predicted if spring break were transformed into instructional days.

"Evidently I have a lot more faith in our staff. I think they would show up to teach the kids," Sudduth said.

Assistant superintendent Pat Blanc said teachers are already doing more to prepare for the test, while saving various enrichment activities until later in the semester.

"We are trying to maximize all the time we have in the classroom," Blanc said, adding that field trips are also being delayed.

Blanc also said it would be difficult for state officials to postpone the test because it's being administered statewide online.

After listening to Blanc's explanation, Sudduth was still not moved and said, "This still doesn't make up for the instructional time that was lost in the classrooms."

Board member and former teacher Mariland Lee recalled worse winters, including an especially severe one when students missed 24 days.

While weather can't be controlled, Lee said she was also upset by the number of times students were pulled out of her classes - whether by parents to go on vacation or to attend a special club or school activity - because it interrupted the instructional process.

"There's nothing that replaces teacher instructional time," Lee said, Sudduth nodding his head in agreement.