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Next school year to start 2 days earlier

By Amber Marra

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Kanawha County schools will start on Aug. 17 next year.

The school board approved a calendar for the 2012-13 school year on a unanimous vote on Tuesday evening with board member Robin Rector voting via telephone.

That is two days earlier than the Aug. 19 date of the first day of school this year. That day falls on a Sunday next year.

Carol Thom, director of staff development and head of the school system's calendar committee, said the Aug. 17 start date resulted in part from input from teachers, who mostly prefer a Friday start.

"We've gotten feedback from teachers saying they like the Friday start because they can get the first-day procedures out of the way and be ready to start classes on Monday," she said.

The calendar for next year will give students three days off for Thanksgiving — from Nov. 21-23. The first semester will end Jan. 9.

Spring break will be April 1-5, the week after Easter.

The last day of the 2012-2013 school year will be May 24, two days after the culmination of the Westest 2 exam.

The board has wrestled with next year's calendar for months and voted against a previous version that would have started classes on Aug. 9, 2012.

They had done the same when discussing this year's calendar. The Aug. 19 date was a full 10 days after the originally proposed start date.

Under the early-start option, the first semester would have ended prior to Christmas break, and school would have ended for the year right after the Westest 2 was completed.

Most board members were opposed because of ongoing problems with air conditioning systems throughout the school system.

At an August meeting, Board President Pete Thaw listed the daily high temperatures for Aug. 9-19 of this year. They ranged from 72 to 89 degrees, prompting Thaw to call his "nay" vote one based on "the welfare of the children" rather than academics.

"I will not subject children to those conditions," he said at the August meeting.

In late May and early June, students at East Bank Middle School, Kenna Middle School and Riverside High missed instructional days due to high temperatures and broken air conditioning systems.

Since school started on Aug. 19, East Bank Middle has had to be dismissed early once due to its air conditioning system operating at only half capacity and to the discovery of contaminants in parts of its coolant holding tower.

Most of the board followed Thaw's lead at the August meeting, casting a 4-1 vote against the calendar. Only Becky Jordon voted for the early start date.

On Tuesday, Jordon voted for the 2012-13 calendar with the Aug. 17 start date without comment.

Members of the public had weighed in on the early start date during a 30-day comment period in July. In fact, the early-start proposal drew so many comments that the board eventually extended the period by a few weeks.

Of the 145 comments received, 94 were against the early start, according to Thom. Opponents cited the air conditioning issues and complications for athletics, extracurricular activities and

vacations.

Among the 34 who commented in favor were people who cited additional Westest preparation time. Another 17 said the board should start looking at a year-round format, which the board agreed to at the time.

Contact writer Amber Marra at amber.marra@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843.


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