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New school calendar will take getting used to

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By Chelsi Baker 
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Marion County students missed 19 days of school last year, leaving them with 168 days of instruction after seven of those days were made up.

If the state’s new rules, which will be implemented in the 2014-15 academic year, would have been in effect last year, students would have made up all 19 of their snow days to have a total 180 instructional days for that year.

If that was the case, students would have been in school until June 29 this summer. And they would still be required to go back to classes mid August.

“It wouldn’t have any effect on the following year,” said Gary Price, superintendent of schools. “If for some reason we have to go to school into June, that has no effect.”

So even if school ended June 29 this year, students would still go back August 21.

The last day of the 2014-15 academic year is set for May 28 right now, but that will likely change because of the new state rules about how schools make up snow days or days missed because of weather or outside influence.

Missing days is not detrimental to students’ learning for one particular year, but it might cause problems if it happens multiple years and if the area has multiple severe winters, Price explained.

“Now, there seems to be a feeling that schools miss too many days to the detriment of the achievement of the students,” said Price. “So, we’re going to make them up. I’ve said a couple times, I actually think it’s a good idea. I’m not sure everybody’s going to like it as much in June as they do now, but everybody likes 180 days until you’re in school 180 days.”

If Marion County sees a winter similar to the last one, students and parents should be expected to be in school several days into June.

However, the calendar committee chose days throughout the year to make up to avoid just adding on more school in June.

Breaks throughout the year will be shorter regardless of how many days students miss because the public requested that in their surveys and forums held last year.

Some days in the breaks can be converted from out of school environment of out of calendar days to instructional days, which will shorten breaks even more but will lengthen the summer.

The Marion County Board of Education will introduce a policy at Monday’s meeting that spells out how lost time is to be recovered, which includes a list of the order make-up days for the upcoming year will be taken.

The first three days are May 29 and June 1 and 2, which are the first three days of summer break. They will be made into instructional days first, before any time is taken from spring break.

Then, March 30- April 1 can be used as make-up days, which will shorten spring break.

Then comes June 3, which could take another day from summer break.

Then April 2, another day in spring break.

Then the list shows the current summer days of June 4-30 as possible make-up time.

“The higher you are up to the top of that list, the better chance those days are going to be instructional days,” Price explained.

So, there is a good chance that any snow days will cause students to be in school up to June 2 in the summer, and then if more than three days are missed, those days will be taken in what is now scheduled as spring break.

Price agreed with parents and teachers on shortening breaks in the academic year, and he doesn't see a problem taking make-up days during spring break.

“For most people, it is simply a break in the education regimen, which sometimes gets you knocked out of rhythm enough that it’s often difficult to get back in, especially when you have a long spring break,” he said. “A long spring break, it is very difficult to get students kind of back in gear.”

Students are often outside playing with friends or participating in warm weather sports, which can put them more into a summer mode, Price said.

“Not only are we going to come back to school, but we’re going to try to gear up for our final push toward the testing time,” he said. “That doesn’t always work out well.”

As far as going to school later into June, those instructional days won’t interfere with county summer programs because they aren’t scheduled until July for that reason.

“But as far as students participating in other private camps — camps sponsored by other individuals or other groups, they would be expected to be in school,” Price said. “That is a day of school. It’s not an extra day of school. It is an assigned day of school, it’s just that now it's on a different date. Rather than being on Jan. 14, when it snowed six inches, it’s on June 7.”

So, how late kids go to school into June and the length of their spring breaks will just depend on the weather — and how many days of school are cancelled because of it.

“One thing that will not change is the graduation date,” Price said. “Even if we're in school on June 30, graduation will still remain the same day.”

The county policy that contains the order of which days will be made up will be read at the next three BOE meetings and will be open for public comment at those times before the board approves it.

Meetings will be held tomorrow, Aug. 4 and Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.