By: Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail
Kanawha County Board of Education member Becky Jordon argued fervently Monday that the first semester of next school year should end before winter break.
The school board, alongside considering a student start date of Aug. 12 or Aug. 19, is also apparently leaning toward using a law passed in 2017 to transform five student early-out days, which feature faculty senate meetings after students leave, into full “professional learning” days for teachers that students have off completely.
No board member objected to making those full days off for students.
House Bill 2711 allowed county school boards that extend their school days by at least 30 minutes beyond the state minimum requirements to plan “an additional five days or equivalent portions of days, without students present ... exclusively for activities by educators at the school level designed to improve instruction.”
Kanawha school system Communications Director Briana Warner said the county’s school day is already long enough to accomplish this “and there’s no current plan by the school system to lengthen the school day if the board takes the full-day-off route.”
School system officials essentially unveiled two proposed 2019-20 school year calendars for all traditional calendar schools Monday, during the first public hearing on next academic year’s calendar. Proposed calendars for the only two “year-round” schools, Piedmont and Mary C. Snow West Side elementaries, weren’t unveiled.
Elaine Gayton, a school system official who presented the proposals, said the next planned public hearing is Dec. 20, after which the board could take a final vote.
Version 1 is similar to the current school year calendar, which only Jordon had voted against. (New member Tracy White hadn’t yet joined the board.)
Version 1 and Version 2 themselves have two versions, A and B, that Gayton said differ only in that faculty senate days are early-out days for students in one and full days off for students in the other, and these days occur at different times in the A and B versions. The full days off route would, for example, lengthen the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend by a day.
In Version 1:
The first day for teachers would be Aug. 13, compared to Aug. 14 this school year.
The first day for students would be Aug. 19, compared to Aug. 20 this school year.
There would be five weekdays off around Thanksgiving, on Nov. 25-29.
There would be ten weekdays off around Christmas and New Year’s Day, Dec. 23, Dec. 24, Dec. 26-31, Jan. 2 and Jan. 3.
The first semester would end Jan. 17, compared to Jan. 18 this school year.
There would be five weekdays off for spring break, April 6-10. (The board seemed to favor moving this, and in the A version, with its full days off for students, they’d also have April 13 off for spring break.)
The last day for students would be June 1, compared to May 29 this school year.
The employee preparation day for closing schools would be June 9, compared to June 6 this school year.
In Version 2:
The first day for teachers would be Aug. 6.
The first day for students would be Aug. 12.
The weekdays off around Christmas and New Year’s Day would be the same as in Version 1.
The first semester would end Dec. 20.
The weekdays off for spring break would be the same as in Version 1.
The last day for students would be May 22.
The employee preparation day for closing schools would be June 2.
“I want to end this semester at Christmas, this is wrong to secondary students to come back and have finals,” Jordon said. “I’ve gotten too many complaints.”
Tracy White said she’d gotten just as many requests to start school after Labor Day, but said there’s no going back to that. She did say a switch back to an earlier start date would cause a week of lost summer this summer.
Jordon responded that starting earlier means more days to study for standardized tests, including the college-entrance exams high schoolers take.
“This is ridiculous that we’ve started later this year; I’ve had more complaints and we’ve taken years to get to [ending the first semester before winter break],” Jordon said.