State Board of Education takes up winter weather waivers Wednesday

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State Board of Education takes up winter weather waivers Wednesday
By Shauna Johnson in News | WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Board of Education will take up waiver requests Wednesday from 27 county school systems seeking exemptions from a provision requiring 180 days of classroom instruction.

While the decisions are up to BOE members, the state superintendent of schools is not a fan of the option.

“I’m a firm believer that we need to have our young people in school for those 180 days to maximize their time on task with our teachers,” Dr. Michael Martirano said.

The counties requesting waivers are seeking permission to avoid making up anywhere from two to eight days missed this school year because of weather. Martirano contends school systems should prepare for heavy snow, flooding or other issues that would necessitate school cancellations.

“The (school) calendars need to be developed in a way from the local superintendents that account for those days that need to be made up and 180 days is a firm number that needs to be there, clearly defined by our law,” he said. “It truly matters.”

Legally, the school year cannot go beyond June 30. Those in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office previously determined all of the counties seeking waivers could meet the 180 day requirement without waivers by June 25.

The waiver option is one the state board offered after the Legislature failed to approve a bill that would have let school instructional time be measured in minutes, not days.

Gayle Manchin, president of the state board, said the panel would consider approving waivers only in “worst case scenarios” that included the use of West Virginia Day, Memorial Day and Saturday school to replace missed days.

“This is a viable option only if a county has shown that it has in good faith built a calendar which contained opportunities to make up lost time and has rescheduled all available non-instructional days,” Manchin said.

During an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Martirano called for educators and families to fully complete the schoolyear.

“Put first things first. What matters the most is our young people need to be in school 180 days,” Martirano said. “Our parents need to make that a top value. Every citizen in the state of West Virginia needs to make it a top value. We need children ready to learn.”

The state Board of Education meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the State Capitol Complex’s Building 6.