CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school officials can't yet say what exactly next year's calendar will look like, but it won't be a year-round schedule.
School board president Pete Thaw said there has been "no discussion, no planning regarding year-round school," to his knowledge.
There's been rampant speculation among schoolchildren and their parents though, as evidenced by the calls he and other school board members have received.
That's likely at least partly because of the way this year's calendar looks — the school board voted last year to approve a calendar that looked drastically different than calendars from years past. School started Aug. 9, the earliest start date in the county's history, so that the first semester will wrap up just before winter break. The idea is to prevent high school students from having to cram for semester exams over the holiday break.
That, plus tweaks to state law that give county school systems greater freedom in planning their calendars, passed by the Legislature as part of an education reform package last spring, has led to speculation that Kanawha County may be looking to implement a year-round school calendar, Thaw said.
"The people who have read into this early starting as an entree to year round school are as far as I know mistaken, because I've been able to find no evidence, have not been a party to any meetings, nor heard of any meetings, where it's been discussed," Thaw said.
"It's easy to read into it — if you're looking for a snake that's where you'd look. But it's not there."
A committee has been appointed and is looking into possible calendar configurations for the next academic year — complete with feedback from faculty, staff and interested parents.
The school board hasn't formally taken up the matter yet — it is slated to be on the agenda for a curriculum meeting this month. The school board is expected to decide between a traditional late August start date and another early August one, similar to this one.
Board members expect to field fewer complaints about an early-August start for the coming year than they did last year, when it resulted in a shorter-than-usual summer break. By next summer, if the calendar is similar, that pattern will have regulated itself, and the summer will be the usual length.
That doesn't mean there aren't concerns, though. Thaw, who was the only board member to vote against the approved 2013-14 calendar last year, is still worried about putting children in school during the hot weeks of early August, and cutting into students' summer activities.
"I think it's really disruptive for the students," he said.
Those who lobby for the early start date usually say it's reasonable to assume that children gain an academic advantage from a calendar that allows for a complete first semester before winter break.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.