Martirano wants Tomblin to veto school calendar bill

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Martirano wants Tomblin to veto school calendar bill

By Shauna Johnson
WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Opposition to the bill allowing for new ways to meet West Virginia’s school instructional requirement of 180 days is coming from Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent of schools.

“It should be vetoed the way it’s written currently,” Martirano said of the school calendar bill on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I think that, right now, with the state Board (of Education) working together, we have already provided flexibility opportunities, but we cannot back off in terms of what really constitutes meaningful instructional time.”

As written, the bill which Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and his legal team are currently reviewing allows banked additional school minutes — accrued time — to be used, if necessary, to make up lost instructional days to get to the 180 mark.

If signed, the legislation will also limit school years in West Virginia to dates between Aug. 10 and June 10, except for in schools operating on balanced or year-round calendars.

“Students have to be in school, in my estimation, on a regular basis, every day. Learning is a 365 day process, 24/7, and we need to make certain that we memorialize that and we really have that as our value in West Virginia,” Martirano said.

In part, the legislation reads as follows:

A county board of education shall develop a policy that requires additional minutes of instruction in the school day or additional days of instruction to recover time lost due to late arrivals and early dismissals first.

Any remaining minutes accrued may be used for instructional minutes or days lost, due to inclement weather or emergencies: Provided, That any reimagining student instructional days that are awarded to the county by the state board must be exhausted prior to using accrued minutes to cover lost instructional days.

If it is not possible to complete 180 instructional days with the current school calendar, the county board shall schedule instruction on any available noninstructional day, regardless of the purpose for which the day originally was scheduled, or an out-of-calendar day and the day will be used for instruction of students.

There is a list of exceptions.

Martirano is an advocate for the mentioned “reimagining” time which, once developed and implemented, would continue instruction even when students cannot make it to school because of weather.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the first year the 180 day requirement was enforced, some school students in West Virginia remained in class near the end of June, long after the end of standardized testing and with attendance dwindling.

This year, Martirano said, most school calendars were built so the first semester wrapped up before the December Christmas break. County officials have also been instructed to push the testing window of 25 days up to the end of the school year.

“We’ve made tremendous adjustments and I firmly believe that we’re not going to have that problem this year,” Martirano said of last year’s late June dates.

Tomblin received HB 4171 at the close of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session on March 12.

A separate education bill codifying the Common Core repeal and ending Smarter Balanced Assessment testing in West Virginia beginning next year, HB 4014, has also not yet been addressed by Tomblin.

Martirano said he had “some concerns” with that bill, though he stopped short of calling for a veto of it.

The deadline for a decision on pending legislation is April 1.