CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County school system wants permission to ignore one portion of the education reform measure state lawmakers passed in March.
County education officials say they can't comply with the part of the new law that gives all elementary school teachers 40-minute planning periods.
As it stands now, the county's elementary school teachers all have 30-minute planning periods four days a week, with one hour set aside for group planning sessions each week. This isn't an issue in middle and high schools, where class periods are typically 45 minutes or longer.
But in elementary school, administrators make room in the schedule for planning periods by putting students in elective classes like music, art and physical education — those subjects' teachers take over the class for a 30-minute period, giving the primary teacher a break to plan his or her lessons.
To make room for an extra 10 minutes in every teacher's planning period would require massive shifts in the daily schedule and more teachers in those elective subjects to fill the gaps.
Jane Roberts, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said officials have estimated to do that in all the county's schools would require 14.5 new positions.
That's 14 positions that the state Department of Education is not providing funding for — even though, Roberts said, they were aware of that problem in the spring, when legislators were just beginning to look at the education reform package.
"Nobody is arguing that 40 minutes of planning is a valuable thing," she said. "We would love to have it, we just need that additional staff to pull it off."