Therapist asks W.Va. to join nearby states in mandating school hours, not days
By Jessica Farrish, (Beckley) Register-Herald
A physical therapist in the Raleigh County school system said she's so tired of Charleston lawmakers wreaking havoc on the local district school calendar that she's taking a petition to state lawmakers.
Currently, West Virginia students are required to attend 180 separate school days per year. To make up for days lost to extreme winter weather, Raleigh students are tentatively scheduled to attend school through June 22.
Dr. Sarah Burks said she researched policies of surrounding states. In every border state except Kentucky, she reported, legislators mandate hours instead of or along with days or minutes.
Virginia policy requires 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours; Pennsylvania law requires 900 teaching hours for first through sixth grades and 990 teaching hours for grades 7-12, and Ohio requires at least 910 hours for first- through sixth-graders and 1,000 hours for students in grades 7-12, Burks reported.
Last year, Ohio lawmakers changed state code to allow for hours instead of days. The move lets local districts build "cushion time" into their school calendars in a way that fits with district educational needs.
"Everybody's been talking about a waiver," noted Burks, referring to a possibility of a 180-day waiver that lawmakers dashed by failing to provide an avenue of relief in the 180-day requirement. "But the county boards and state boards are bound by what the law says.
"Until you change the law, how are you going to apply for and change the waiver process?"
Burks posted her petition on www.change.org Wednesday night and had close to 100 signatures Thursday afternoon.
She's asking Raleigh residents and other West Virginians to sign the petition, which she will present to lawmakers. If a big enough protest is heard, legislators will address the request at the next regular legislative session in January, unless a special session would be called earlier.
Burks is also urging everyone in Raleigh, Fayette, Wyoming, Nicholas, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Pocahontas, Summers, Monroe and other counties to call their local state representatives at home or at their offices and tell them to change the 180-day policy. She pointed out that local districts and the West Virginia Board of Education are bound by state law.
"The change has to be coming from the state," she said. "If it's just Raleigh County, it's not going to change."
Raleigh County Education Association Co-President Marie Hamrick said she applauded Burks' effort to finding a solution for the 180-day quagmire.
"One way to look at it is with the hours," said Hamrick. "We've talked about using minutes. It's really pretty much the same thing.
"Those other states have researched it, and it's worked well for them, and they also have snow."
The petition is online at https://www.change.org/p/west-virginia-legislature-change-the-current-wv-code-18-5-45-requiring-180-separate-instructional-days-for-students-to-180-teaching-days-or-990-teaching-hours-2?utm_source=guides&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=petition_created.