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House committee passes bill to make major changes to school calendar

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Calling it the “landmark” legislation of this legislative session, members of the House of Delegates Education Committee passed a bill Thursday morning making major changes to the public school calendar when it comes to when students start and end school.

The bill, HB 2433, was originally drafted to mandate the school year for students take place between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The committee amended to make it date specific. The bill would now require the school year in all counties to take place between Sept. 1 and May 31. The school year currently begins in early to mid-August for most counties.

The bill does not change the other dates in code when it comes to when teachers report to prepare for the school year and those employees with longer contracts.

The committee amended the bill to reduce the number of instructional days from 180 to 170. Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, who offered the amendment, said he met with a group of teachers and school administrators to arrive at the 170 number.

“I understand that all of the states that perform lower than us all have 180 days. Conversely the top 10 (states) range from 165 to 180. There’s no correlation between days, it’s about the quality of instruction among educators,” Hornbuckle told the committee.

Del. Roy Cooper, R-Summers, a retired teacher, said he agreed with reducing the days to 170 but is concerned about a possible veto from Gov. Jim Justice.

“We may be inviting a veto of a perfectly good bill,” Cooper said.

Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell, also a retired teacher, said 180 days is just a number. He said 170 days is more than enough time to teach students the content standards.

“There is no magical number of 180 days. I don’t even know where it came from,” Evans said.

The committee approved the amendment and then approved the bill on a voice vote. Only one dissenting vote could be heard.

Hornbuckle said it could one of the most important bills of the session.

“This can actually end up being the landmark piece of education legislation for the session. I think this one addresses students, parents and teachers and there’s no political posturing with that,” he said.

Del. Amanda Estep-Burton, D-Kanawha, said as a parent it would be good to know that school would be starting and ending on the same days each year.

“I think that this is wonderful. Waiting every year and being uncertain about the first day of school and planning vacations, as a mother, I fully support this bill,” she said.