Kanawha school board chooses calendar; school to begin Aug. 14

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Kanawha school board chooses calendar; school to begin Aug. 14
By Carrie Hodousek, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students in West Virginia’s largest county will begin the 2017-2018 school year on Aug. 14, 2017.

The Kanawha County Board of Education approved the new school calendar Thursday night with a 4-1 vote after two other calendar options were voted down.

Before the vote, board members considered the results of an online survey from students, parents, employees and community members on four different start dates: Aug. 8, Aug. 14, Aug. 21 and Sept. 5.

According the 9,552 total votes of the survey, 43 percent (4,115) said they would prefer school to start on Sept. 5, 33 percent (3,146) voted for an Aug. 21 start date, 18 percent (1,692) were in favor of Aug. 14 and the remaining 6 percent (599) said school should begin on Aug. 8.

The first recommendation made by the board was the Sept. 5 start date, but that vote failed 4-1. The second vote was on the Aug. 21 date, which also failed 3-2.

Board member Pete Thaw was in favor of starting school on Sept. 5. He was the only “no” vote for the new calendar beginning on Aug. 14.

“We’ve got millions of dollars worth of A.C. work to do,” Thaw told MetroNews after Thursday’s meeting. Earlier this year, several schools had air conditioning problems during the first few weeks of school. Students began school Aug. 8 this year — the earliest start date in West Virginia.

“Here we are. We’re going to start again — early August,” Thaw said. “It’s outrageous.”

Thaw said he voted against the mid-August start date because it wasn’t what community members wanted.

Fifty-three percent of all community members surveyed said Sept. 5 was the best option. Fifty percent of all parents and 34 percent of all students who took the survey voted for that date as well.

Several posts on Twitter came after the board’s vote. One person tweeted, “What’s the point of making us vote if we have no choice in the matter @KCBOE, why let us vote in the first place? You don’t care at all!”

Another post read, “Only 18 %… So glad our voices were “heard””

Thaw said, “When they very clearly tell us what they want, we don’t even bat an eye and refuse them,” he said. “Why ask the people if we’re not going to pay attention to it?”

The online results showed 617 out of 1,500 school employees, or 41 percent of all employees who took the survey, supported the Aug. 14 beginning date.

Jennifer White, a second grade teacher at Elk Elementary School, voted for the 14th. She said if school were to start later than that, teachers would’ve been shorted a paycheck.

“At the beginning of the year, most of our first paycheck goes into our classroom. I mean, I buy lots and lots of things all year long, but especially at the beginning it makes it a little difficult,” White said.

Dr. Ron Duerring, superintendent of Kanawha County Schools, said the board made sure to listen to their employees.

“We have 3,800 employees,” he said. “Like anybody else out there, we depend on our pay to pay our bills and things like that and I think they took that into consideration when looking at the calendar.”

Board member Ric Cavender recommended the Aug. 21 date as a compromise between the 14th and 5th, but it was voted down. He said using the survey was a great tool and that he would like to use it again.

“It gave us a really good perspective as to what the people wanted and at the end of the day, we as a group, have to make the best decision based on that data weighing out the priorities and the needs of the employees of the system because they are the ones teaching our children,” Cavender said.

The last day of school in Kanawha County, according to the new calendar, is scheduled for May 23, 2018.