Teachers head back to class in West Virginia’s second largest school system

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By Shauna Johnson in News | 

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The superintendent of West Virginia’s second largest county school system says the school calendar has not changed that much in Berkeley County this year, even with a new mandate for 180 days of instructional time for students.

“Last year was such an unusual year for snow days and we’ve always been right around the 180 (requirement) in previous years,” Superintendent Manny Arvon said. “I think we might have started a day sooner this year, but it was our goal to end the first semester before Christmas.”

Wednesday was the first day for teachers in Berkeley County. Students will return to their classrooms there on Monday. As of now, the school year in Berkeley County is scheduled to end on May 29.

Arvon has been superintendent in Berkeley County for the past 18 years, a time that has seen tremendous growth in much of the Eastern Panhandle. Since 2000, for example, Arvon said 2,000 teachers have been hired in Berkeley County. The new Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown — the latest of many new schools — opened just last week.

Voters in Berkeley County will go to the polls on Aug. 23 to decide on a longtime levy. If renewed, the levy — which has been in place for 66 years — would generate $147 million for the school system over a five year period.

Arvon said the levy money accounts for about 17 percent of the Berkeley County Board of Education’s total budget and, in part, is used to supplement teacher salaries — an incentive to help Berkeley County compete with neighboring states in hiring.

“It’s always part of the package that we have to do to compete and it’s our ability to compete that gives us the opportunity to put great teachers in front of our students,” Arvon said. In recent years, Arvon noted the flow of teachers out of Berkeley County has slowed.

However, “We have noticed, this year especially, in the last couple of weeks, you’re seeing more and more resignations of young teachers that we were able to recruit and bring to Berkeley because of jobs not available in their home districts,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“A lot of times, as jobs open up closer to home, you’ll see these teachers leave.”

In parts of West Virginia, the school year started back on Aug. 5. The last county school system to begin the new year in West Virginia will be Brooke County on Aug. 25