School calendar bill gives counties flexibility, committee chair says

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School calendar bill gives counties flexibility, committee chair says
By Pamela Pritt Register-Herald Reporter

 Lawmakers in the Senate have amended a House bill that creates flexibility for county school districts' start and end date and eliminates the 180-day requirement for instructional days.

The Senate passed the bill 32-2 Wednesday.

HB 4171 now says that school systems are not allowed to begin before Aug. 10 and may not continue after June 10. Teacher preparation days are reserved for that purpose and may not be interrupted for collaborative meetings unless the teacher agrees, the bill says. The bill also increases Faculty Senate days to six from four, and adds flexibility for scheduling those days.

The bill eliminates the 180-day instructional mandate and instead provides that additional minutes of instruction each day be used for days lost to inclement weather, unless "reimagining student instructional days awarded by the state board" are used before using accrued time.

"Reimagining" is another word for packets of work sent home to be completed during extended days off from school because of inclement weather.

"It's better than what (the counties) have now," Senate Education Committee chair Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, said. He said he doesn't think a fixed start and end date are necessary and counties should be allowed to create their own calendars. "We should allow counties to have that flexibility," he said.

Sypolt said he's not sure if Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will approve the bill without the 180-day mandate.

"I sincerely believe that will cause it to come under extra scrutiny," he said.

Tomblin Communications Director Chris Stadelman said the governor is interested in "a number of provisions that are part of the bill, particularly making sure our state’s students are in the classroom for 180 separate days of instructional time."

"Once our office receives the bill, the governor will review the specifics with his policy and legal teams before making a final decision," Stadelman said.

The House of Delegates had different start and end dates for the school year and must concur with the Senate's changes before the bill can go to the governor.