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Kanawha school officials delay action on calendar

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--After months of public debate and internal work on Kanawha County's 2014 school calendar, officials said Thursday that they're putting off the decision for several more months.

Superintendent Ron Duerring said Thursday that officials have elected to wait for the state Department of Education to finalize changes to its policy on school calendars in the coming months. That work, a response to changes in state law made during the last legislative session, is ongoing, but the policy should be complete within the next few months.

"I would suspect around February or March that we should have a calendar," Duerring said.

Local officials want to avoid constructing a calendar that is later found to violate this new state policy. Making revisions to the school system's calendar once it has been published would be confusing for families, Duerring said.

"Yeah but the state department isn't going to get the calls when ... we get calls from parents that say we didn't know when you were starting, we planned a vacation then and now they have school," board member Becky Jordon said.

The calendar has been a contentious issue in Kanawha County this fall. Last year, the board approved 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, so students don't have to cram for semester exams over the holidays.

That move met with a mixed reaction among school board members, and no small amount of controversy among parents and students, who argued the summer was too short or that the change of calendar interfered with traditional or already-scheduled summer activities.

A team of administrators has been working to develop several calendars for the board to vote on. There are two main options: one with a mid-August start date, the other with a controversial early August start date similar to the one used this school year.

Per the new state law regarding school calendars, local school boards must meet to publicly discuss the calendar twice before it can be approved. The first of those meetings was last month, when a handful of parents showed up to weigh in on the early or late start dates.

But now, officials say they'll put off any more discussion of the calendar at least until after the first of the year.

For now, Duerring said, all officials can do is warn parents to stay clear of planning anything that might interfere with the start of school -- either the early or the late start date.

"We've had calls asking and we've said to stay away from the second week of August, he said. 

"I understand it's difficult but we can't put out a calendar early because everybody works off dates and then if the state makes changes and we have to make changes it becomes really confusing."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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