CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, lawmakers and educators agree county school systems need to have more control in creating their own school calendars.
Members of the House Education Committee learned about how to make that happen Tuesday.
Joe Panetta, assistant superintendent with the state Department of Education, talked with legislators about the parts of state law and Board of Education policy that pertain to school calendars.
He pointed to law that, if changed or eliminated, would move control from the state level to county school systems and help achieve the coveted 180 days of instruction.
Tomblin said in his State of the State address that he would not propose any legislation mandating a year-round, or balanced, calendar.
Counties that want to use the calendar now must receive a waiver from the state to do so, Panetta said. The changes he discussed would make the switch easier. He sees benefits in switching.
"The real advantage of a balanced calendar is that you don't have that long summer break for students," Panetta said, referring to teacher complaints about students forgetting lessons while they're on break.
Delegate Adam Young, D-Nicholas, was the only member of the committee to ask about student achievement while using a balanced calendar. Panetta said he didn't have any data that specifically showed a balanced calendar led to better student achievement.
From his own experiences, he said curriculum changes implemented at the same time as a balanced calendar tend to have a greater impact on success. He did not specify what programs.
There's evidence the calendar is beneficial for at-risk, poorer students, said Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln.
Stowers, vice chairman of the committee and vice principal at Horace Mann Middle School in Kanawha City, said he researched early education and balanced calendars while working on a doctorate. The evidence is there for children in need, but its effect on more affluent students is negligible.
He doesn't think there's enough data to support achievement at the middle and high school levels because there are so few facilities using such a calendar.
Weather is a big concern for both opponents and advocates of calendar changes.
Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said most of the schools in her county are old and don't have air conditioning. A balanced calendar would mean more time in potentially sweltering classrooms, she said.