By Jessica Farrish
(Beckley) Register-Herald Reporter
Hours before canceling school in Raleigh County for today, Raleigh Superintendent of Schools Jim Brown and school board members discussed the calendar at the regular board of education meeting Tuesday.
Brown sent out a notice to parents Tuesday, notifying them that six days originally planned as out-of-school environment days and two continuing education days will now be school days.
Students were not required to attend school on those days on the original school calendar, but adjustments were made in accordance with state law in order to make up for eight of the 11 days this year school was canceled due to snow.
No days past the eight covered in the new calendar may legally be made up this school year, Brown said.
Raleigh students will now attend school on March 7 and 21, April 4, May 29 and 30 and June 3,4 and 5. He reassured parents that spring break will not be impacted. Brown said extra minutes could not be added to the calendar this year, in accordance with employee contracts.
“There’s no avenue to do anything different than a 208 day contract,” he added.
BOE President Rick Snuffer said no teachers want snow days to be called.
“Teachers want to make sure these kids are in school and getting their assignments,” he said.
Teachers had sent out snow packets — assignments for students on snow days — and used technology to make assignments Monday and Tuesday, according to BOE members.
“I got several e-mails from principals this afternoon, and a lot of good work was done today,” Brown said.
Raleigh County Education Association Co-President Marie Hamrick of the West Virginia Education Association and WVEA Treasurer and Raleigh math teacher Fred Farris explained that “out of school environment” days are essentially vacation days that were given to teachers by state legislators several in lieu of a pay raise years ago.
Gradually, the rule became that the days would be used for snow days if needed — a move Hamrick said the majority of teachers support.
“I think it’s fair,” she said.
Hamrick said that with the OSE and CE days now being used as instructional days, students have gained back eight of the snow days.
She also said the snow days are “really not” a “big, huge deal.”
“Teachers have always worked hard to get their kids caught up with weather days,” she added. “They’ve done it their whole careers. Teachers are well acclimated to have packets for kids or to do things that make up for the lost instruction.
“We’ve done it forever,” said Hamrick. “You live in West Virginia, you’ve got snow, so it’s no big, huge deal.”
Hamrick explained that if only instructional minutes per day were counted, most students in Raleigh County would be exceeding state requirements, even with the snow days.
“Our high school students get six extra days (per year) if you look at minutes only,” she said. “Our middle schools get 10 or 12 days, depending on bus runs.”