By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer, The Inter-Mountain
ELKINS - Parents, students and staff will have the opportunity to offer input into setting the 2014-2015 Randolph County school calendar during a pair of public meetings.
Terry George, the Randolph County superintendent of schools, said the county Board of Education is looking for community input to help develop the calendar within the requirements set by Senate Bill 359, passed into law last spring.
"The West Virginia State Department of Education conducted a workshop with superintendents recently to talk about policy changes in the 2014-2015 school calendar," George said. "We attended the Northern Regional Workshop in Bridgeport to assure counties and superintendents are prepared to implement a calendar in line with the bill."
The new law mandates that students receive 180 instructional days in the classroom per school year.
"I just want to put a couple of misconceptions about the new calendar to rest," George said. "We will not be having year-round school in Randolph County. The bill does not require that."
George said the Randolph County schools calendar will remain, as much as possible, a traditional calendar, such as it has been in the past. There will be several changes, however.
"All missed instructional days must be made up, including two-hour delays and early dismissals," George said. "The local boards must approve their calendar, then submit it to the West Virginia Department of Education for approval."
George said the calendar must consist of 200 days, 180 days of which must be direct instruction. "Those days must be completed in a 48-week window beginning Aug. 1 and ending June 30," he said.
"We want parents to understand that all non-instructional days will be utilized to insure that there are 180 days of instruction, regardless of when we start and when we end," George said.
George said if the state would experience a federally declared disaster, the West Virginia state superintendent has the discretion to decide upon making up instructional days.
The two public meetings are set for 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Elkins High School in the library/media center, and 6 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Tygarts Valley High School cafeteria.
Those who cannot attend the meetings may share their opinions with a survey on their student's Engrade computer program. George said those who cannot access the Engrade program can take the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/JX9ZV3R.
As of this week, George said more than 1,100 residents had completed the survey online. Anyone experiencing difficulty with the survey should call the board office at 304-636-9150 ext. 135.
"We want people to have as much information as possible, and have the opportunity to have their questions and desires heard," George said.
He said the school system has samples of calendars, and that the Randolph County School Calendar Committee has not yet begun meeting.
"They will use the feedback from the surveys and the two public meetings," George said. "Then the calendar committee can sit down, we hope, to develop two draft calendars by Feb. 7. Those drafts are then submitted to the staff for their input, and (staff will) submit them to the state department for their review. The local board of education will then select the calendar that will be utilized."
George said the calendar committee chairperson is Elkins High School Principal David Fincham, and the committee includes representatives from all the professional associations, the service personnel association, the central office, the principals' association, and in the past, there has been a student representative on the committee. George said he anticipates a student will serve on the committee again this year.
"By conducting the public hearings, we are hoping for lots of parent, student and community feedback," George said. "The position of Randolph County schools is that the calendar needs to be student-centered. That is what we are here for.
"It's not what's best for adults - it's not what's best for parents. The calendar is what is best for the students of Randolph County."