Counties await new options in school calendar bill

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Counties await new options in school calendar bill
By Alex Wiederspiel | WV MetroNews

County school systems have new options when it comes to the 180-day school calendar in a bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The governor received the bill (HB 4171) after the regular session ended March 12 and has until April 1 to decide if he’ll sign it.

Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said the provisions of the bill won’t change things all that much for parents or students.

“What this law will allow is to utilize the bank time as days,” he said.

Essentially, schools can add extra time to the front or back end of a day–perhaps 10 minutes here or there–to effectively lengthen school days. This way, schools won’t ever start earlier than Aug. 10 or end later than June 10 while still getting in the mandated 180 instructional days.

“We have been banking time here in Harrison County for many years,” Dr. Manchin said. “When you hear the three-hour delay or two-hour delay, the reason we are able to do those is that we have banked time. Every one of our schools exceed the required minutes per day.”

While educators generally agree on how much time students need to spend in school, parents were concerned that the time lost from snow days would diminish the recreational opportunities kids can experience during the summer months.

“That will be beneficial to them,” Manchin said. “I don’t think you’ll see any major changes of the amount of time that a child spends in a classroom. It’ll be similar. He or she will not miss out on any work. I think it’s a win for parents, and I think it’s a win for the school system. I think people will be pleased with it.”

Manchin said that the 180-day schedule is critical, but because of the recent years of harsh winter weather it’s important that the bill provide schools with flexibility.

“Everybody agrees that academic engage time is critical,” he said. “Given last year’s harsh winter and the fact that many of the school systems in the state had to go additional days–clear up into mid-June–it was problematic for a lot of people.”

He said parents in Harrison County are unlikely to notice a difference in their child’s school schedule for 2016-17 because additions will only be a few minutes here or there.

“We may add a few minutes, but it’ll be negligible. Parents won’t even recognize it. Obviously, we’d have to work with our bus drivers in our transportation system, but it’ll be minimal. And I doubt that parents in the community will see any difference.”