Parents criticize early start date in Kanawha County

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Parents criticize early start date in Kanawha County
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County has been back at school for over a week in hot, humid temperatures, and many parents aren’t happy about such an early start time.

Several parents spoke at Wednesday night’s Kanawha School Board meeting after some schools had been sent home early due to the heat and faulty air conditioning in the past week.

The consensus among them was that Kanawha County, the first district to begin the 2016-17 year, starts school too early.

“I don’t have enough time with my kids. They’re at school ten hours a day,” lamented Tiffany Graley. “We don’t, as adults, put in ten hours and we expect our kids to put in ten hours. They don’t have a chance to be a kid; they don’t have a chance to learn home values, family values, because they’re not at home.”

Superintendent Ron Duerring said Wednesday night’s comments would be considered.

“Absolutely. We don’t just ignore people’s comments, and we certainly will take those into consideration,” he said. “I think there is a way to work, and we knew that all along. We could shorten the breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe look at other places in the calendar to do that and see if the public likes that.”

Charleston City Clerk JB Akers, who has three kids in Kanawha County schools, said that he would like to see more time in the summer to plan vacation, and take time off breaks during the year. He said almost everyone in Kanawha County agrees that school starts too early.

“You can’t get people to agree on the same thing all the time, but it seems like there is universal disfavor toward the Aug. 8 start date. I have not talked to one person who likes school starting that early.”

Longtime board member Pete Thaw, said he had spoken out against the early start for five years. If parents want to see the school start date change, Thaw encouraged them to come back when the calendar is voted on in November.

“I’ll continue to fight this every year. Including this year,” Thaw promised. “The important thing for the people to remember is that this matter will be settled on the third Thursday of November in this room. Show up. Voice your opinion.”

Duerring said summer checks on HVAC systems in county schools happen each summer, but sometimes the weather is simply too hot.

“You get weather like this, and then you get all the kids in the building and that’s when the problems begin,” Duerring said.

School has begun progressively earlier in Kanawha County the past several years, which Duerring said there was a few reasons for, starting with the state school board’s emphasis on 180 days of education.

“Certainly 180 days played into that, but there’s some other things as well. First of all, a lot of the parents enjoyed having that time off in the holidays with their children and having them at home, especially at Thanksgiving when that’s the biggest travel time of the year,” he explained. “The other thing, too, was the semester idea that kids would start and would go home over. Christmas break and would have to come back with finals and papers that were due.”

The semester ending before Christmas changed that, Duerring said, so papers and exams would be finished before the break, but the move also created an earlier start date.

About a dozen parents spoke during the delegation portion of the meeting, most of them pushing for a later start date.