State's 180-day rule prompting changes in school schedules

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By Ben Nandy

HUNTINGTON, Wv. - At Tuesday evening's Cabell County Board of Education meeting, several parents objected to a proposed 2014-15 school calendar that would start on August 8th.

The change is being made to meet requirements in a new West Virginia state law that says there must be 180 days of instruction in a school year.

There are no exceptions. Snow days must be made up.

"I think the Legislature is concerned about making sure kids get the instruction they're supposed to have, and we've missed so many days," says Cabell County School Superintendent William Smith. "Some counties missed 20 or 30 days in a year, and that's major in this state. We need to have them in school."

Board member, Mary Alice Freeman says she likes the proposed calendar because "many kids check out after Memorial Day anyway."

Many parents at the meeting say they don't like it because their kids aren't going to be ready to head back to school in early August.

"In August, they're going to be hot and daydreaming," says Michele Woodall, mother of two students and a substitute teacher in a nearby district. "My eight-year-old will not want to go to bed when it's still daylight outside. That means he's going to be dragging in the mornings."

Based on her experience, Ms. Woodall says the state's push to improve education should have less to do with days logged in a class, and more to do with the education of parents.

"I see what goes on in the classrooms," says Ms. Woodall. "I like to have the freedom to take my kids on other learning experiences, besides just in the room."

The law, passed last year, goes into effect in the fall.

Whether the school year starts early to plan for missed days, or ends late to make up for them, the law must be obeyed.

All school districts must hold two public meetings to discuss schedule changes before making a final decision.
This was Cabell County Schools' first of two meetings.

The board may vote after its next meeting on March 4th on a new schedule.