New Cabell school calendar to have built-in make-up days

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By Kristi Murphy
The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON -- Cabell County school officials are in the process of developing the district's 2014-2015 school calendar that will include 10 days at the end of the school year that can be used if the district cancels more than seven days of school next year.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Jeff Smith gave a presentation at Tuesday evening's regular board meeting that highlighted the new regulations from the West Virginia Department of Education.

The new guidelines expand the school calendar from 43 weeks to 48 weeks and require students to receive 180 days of instruction per school year.

"Previously, we had five instructional student enhancement (ISE) days that counted as instructional days," Smith explained. "Two hours were for staff development, two hours were for faculty senate and two hours were for students to come in and take make-up exams and have parent conferences, but those five days were only addressing very few students and weren't even close to a full day of school. The main purpose is to make sure the students receive 180 days of instruction."

The calendar will include six outside school environment (OSE) days that will be scheduled toward the end of the school year in case they are needed to make up for canceled days. The calendar must also include a teacher preparation day at the the end of the school year that could also be used as a make-up day.

Those seven days are included in the 200-day contracted calendar for staff, but if school is canceled more than seven days, employees will be required to work additional unpaid days at the end of the school year.

"If we have to cancel school for more than seven days, we're adding in -- and this is totally new -- 10 additional days after that last prep day," Smith said. "So all of our employees will be on notice that if we have more than seven (canceled school) days, they best not have planned a vacation for that time because they are going to be obligated to come back and do their jobs."

He said the last resort to make up for lost instructional days is taking away spring break.

"Historically, spring break, we've kept sacred to a certain extent you can say," Smith said. "For our community to lose spring break, that would not be good and we want to avoid that."

County boards are now required to hold at least two public hearings that allow the public to discuss the school calendar. The first public hearing will take place on Feb. 18 at the school board's regular meeting. The school board will vote to approve the calendar on March 4 following a second public hearing.

Then, the calendar will be sent to the West Virginia Department of Education for approval by the state board of education.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the school board voted in favor of putting the school system's 60-year-old excess levy on the May 13 primary ballot. The levy provides funding to public schools in Cabell County, the Cabell County Public Library and the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District.

The levy is up for renewal every five years. It last was renewed by voters in Cabell County during the 2008 general election, and that renewal was effective for the 2011 fiscal year. School officials said they try to put the levy on the ballot during primary and general elections to avoid the costs related to holding a separate special election.

If approved by the voters in May, the levy would go into effect for a five-year period beginning with the 2015 fiscal year.

During the meeting, board members also recognized Michele Goodson, a teacher at Geneva-Kent Elementary School, who recently achieved National Board Certification by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

The board also approved a resolution to adopt the measurement periods for determining full-time employee status under the Affordable Care Act. The ACA defines a full-time employee as one working, on average, at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per calendar month.

As an employer, the school system is subject to tax penalties that can be charged to employers that fail to offer affordable, minimum value coverage under a qualifying health plan to all full-time employees and their dependents by Jan. 1, 2015.

In other business, the board also approved a memorandum of understanding between the school system and the June Harless Center for Rural Education Research and Development.

The memorandum of understanding defines the partnership roles for the incubator school that will be formed from the consolidation of Peyton and Geneva-Kent elementary schools for the 2015-2016 school year. That school will be located at the to-be-renovated campus of the former Beverly Hills Middle School.

The school system and the center will use the Design Team model to establish the school as an Expeditionary Learning School.