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Kanawha schools continues to look at calendar options

As Kanawha County education officials struggle with the debate surrounding next year's school calendar, they also have to take into consideration new rules governing how local school boards settle on a calendar.

A new state policy, created by the Department of Education after the passage of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform package earlier this year, made significant changes to the policy surrounding the school calendar.

That policy, the product of some of the most contentious debate surrounding the education legislation, was enacted earlier this month, and is currently out for public comment.

"The changes were made to provide county boards of education more flexibility in adopting a school calendar each year that meets their individual needs, while at the same time requiring the county boards to actually provide students with 180 separate days of instruction," the policy says. Changes will take effect in the next academic year, the fall of 2014.

To ensure that they provide 180 days of instruction, counties are given a larger window in which they can schedule school, and have a mechanism with which they may make up any lost days.

Elaine Gayton, who headed up the calendar development for Kanawha County Schools, said that none of the proposed calendars take advantage of that allowance. Kanawha County has, historically, been able to get 180 days of instruction, or something close. The average number of instructional days in Kanawha County over the last five years is 178.8, according to data from the state Department of Education.

Many counties have had trouble providing 180 days of instruction because of inclement weather. In 2010-11, for example, only 10 school systems provided 180 days. In 2009-10, none did.

The new policy also says that county boards must hold at least two public hearings before they adopt a calendar. The Kanawha County school board had the first of those earlier this month. Another is scheduled for its next regular meeting.

That meeting, and others revolving around the calendar, was contentious in Kanawha County, as the school board considers calendar options that are a departure from the usual plan. 

The school board voted last year to approve a calendar that looked drastically different than those from years past -- school started Aug. 9, the earliest start date in the county's history.

The idea was to wrap up the first semester just before winter break, preventing students from having to cram for semester exams over the holiday vacation. The idea met with mixed reaction among school board members and no small amount of controversy among students and parents who preferred the usual calendar option.

Now, the school board is tasked with approving a calendar that looks like this year's, with the controversial early start date, or one that looks more like calendars in years past.

Board members were eager to take up the issue this fall, but warn that, because of the new calendar regulations imposed by the state, the matter may not be settled any time soon. 

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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