Snow days won't affectﾠ county school schedule
Jack Frost may have given Pocahontas County Schools an extended vacation, but he hasnﾒt affected the school calendar.
Most students and teachers returned to a full day of school Monday after nine snow days and the schools had a two hour delay Tuesday. Marlinton Elementary School students were sent home Monday becauseﾠ electrical problems at the school led to heating failure.
Students and teachers may have missed days, but will return to where they left off in mid-December.
ﾓWhen they go back, they will return to the first semester,ﾔ Law said. ﾓThe second semester will begin in a week or two. We havenﾒt decided to change the start date yet.ﾔ
The state board of education requires that schools make up as many snow days as possible to ensure the schools have 180 instructional days.
"Every county is aware that the State Board of Education believes every student should have 180 days," Executive Director of the Office of Communications for West Virginia Board of Education Liza Cordeiro said. "As time goes by every county works hard to meet those 180 days, whether they take away vacation days or other available days."
Cordeiro said the state board and State Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine are discussing ways to change the school calendar in a way that is fair to all the schools.
"Instead of having the start and end days we have now, we are looking at moving the days back earlier than August 25 and later than June 8," she said.
Another option the state may consider is a year-round school year, although Cordeiro said that decision will be up to each county.
"There is a piece of legislation that allows for year-round school if it is in the best interest of the students," she explained. "The state will not enforce the change unless the county approaches us with the idea first."
Three West Virginia schools currently operate on a year-round schedule. Piedmont Year-Round Education in Kanahwa County is a pre-K to fifth grade school with an enrollment of 288 students.
"When Piedmont started, part of the reason was because it was beneficial to the students in that area," Cordeiro said.
Piedmont Principal Stephen Knighton has been an advocate for the year-round school calendar since the school changed 14 years ago.
"It is wonderful," he said, describing the school year. "It is very easy for us to make-up up to 15 days of school before the WESTEST. Because of the calendar, there is a week before classes return where students can come back and review and that adds 16 days to the calendar. If we need to use them as a make-up day, we can."
The calendar consists of nine weeks of school and three weeks of vacation. Knighton said this schedule allows the students to retain information better and they don't get burned out as easily.
"The parents enjoy it, the kids are very positive with it," he said. "After three weeks of vacation, the kids are bored to death, so with this calendar, they can return to school."
Knighton even convinced two other elementary schools in Kanawha County to change to the calendar. Chandler Elementary and Glenwood Elementary schools took a leap of faith and are now operating as year-round schools. Knighton said Chandler and Glenwood will consolidate next year and continue the calendar.
Using his knowledge of the year-round calendar, Knighton has visited 30 counties in the state to explain it to boards of education. He has also gone before the state legislature when they were discussing the school calendar.
"The biggest problem we have, the parents love the calendar until they have a child move on to middle school and have another one here," Knighton said. "It is hard for them to function with two different school calendars."
The benefits of the calendar include financial stability.
"Each school is alloted an amount of money for substitutes and we save anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 a year because we don't need to use subs as often," Knighton explained. "Teachers can schedule doctor's appointments and other personal days on the three weeks they have off and that way they won't miss school."
Knighton said he believes that the schools will be free of regret if they change to the year-round calendar.
Whatever the future may hold, for now, Pocahontas County schools have to do the best they can with the calendar they have to work with.
Law said Pocahontas County is going to the last available dayﾠof the school calendar to make up snow days.
ﾓThere are four days at the end of the year that we can use, but that will take us to the max,ﾔ he said.
It is unclear how the rest of the days will be made up, or if they will be.
ﾓWe have no other options for make up days,ﾔ Law explained. ﾓTeachers are contracted for so many days and we are required to have IS [Instructional Support] days. Spring break are non-paid days, so we canﾒt take days from that.ﾔ
A three-week vacation from school may sound like a childﾒs dream come true, but most students are ready to return to school,ﾠto continue theirﾠeducation and see their friends.
ﾓI miss my friends because we all live in different parts of the county which makes it harder to see everybody when thereﾒs so much snow,ﾔ Senior Cody Perkins said. ﾓIt will be harder to get back in the groove of school, like getting up early to catch the bus and stay awake in class.ﾔ
The stress of returning to a routine and picking up where they left offﾠnearly a month ago has teachers anxious to return to their classrooms, as well.
ﾓAs far as my lesson plans go, we will have to back up and restart any units we started before the break, such as, if we just started fractions, we will pretty much start all over,ﾔ Marsha Beverage, fourth grade teacher at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, said. ﾓIn the classroom, I am not worried about meeting my state objectives. I feel that I still have time to cover the material.ﾔ
Beverage said she is worried about the computer-based lessons the state requires.
ﾓMy class only gets 40 minutes in the lab per week, yet we are expected to do eight computer lessons with our students, K-8,ﾔ she said. ﾓThese are not small lessons either, most of them require more than one class period with additional prep time.ﾔ
Along with time for the computer lessons, time is needed for programs like Accuity testing and Compass lessons. Beverage said the loss of time in the classroom and computer lab will make it difficult to catch up on both programs.
Although she has her concerns, Beverage is confident the students will fall back into their studies without any problems.
ﾓStudents are very resilient and will do fine once they are back,ﾔ she said. ﾓThose that will have the toughest time are those that are just learning to read. I will be anxious to see if they have retained the information they have been taught.ﾔ
Beverage added that parents can help their childrenﾠwhile theyﾠare off forﾠsnow days by practicing their lessons with them.
Unlike the elementary schools, the high school is on block scheduling, with two semesters similar to college. Pocahontas County High School has a semester currently waiting to be finished andﾠits length has been shortened as instructionalﾠdays turned into snow days.
Mathematics teacher Mike DiPasquale said he thinks teachers may have to make sacrifices in their lesson plans in order to finish the semester.
ﾓWe as teachers will have to look at our CSOs [Content Standard Objectives] and determine which are more important and have to be taught before the following school year,ﾔ he said.
DiPasquale added that he believes the students wonﾒt have a problem with finals.
ﾓWe will review for our finals in the same way we normally would,ﾔ he said. ﾓIt may be a help to them as there will be some material missing from the finals as there are things we havenﾒt been able to cover yet.ﾔ
The students returned to school Monday and had a two-hour delay on Tuesday.
Academics isnﾒt the onlyﾠthing that has been affected by snow days. The boys and girls basketball teams have struggled to begin the 2009-2010 season and are now facing the issue of rescheduling games and missing practices.
ﾓSo far we [the boys team] have played three games, but what is happening now is that we arenﾒt able to get into the gym to practice,ﾔ assistant coach DiPasquale said. ﾓWe havenﾒt had practice since January 2 and we havenﾒt played since December 29.ﾔ
Although it takes its toll on the condition of the athletes, DiPasquale said they are used to competing with the weather.
ﾓWe have dealt with this before and our guys are able to adjust and come out and play hard when the time comes,ﾔ he said. ﾓItﾒs not like we havenﾒt had this problem before.ﾔ
The Warriors returned to the hardwood Monday night at East Hardy and the Lady Warriors played at home. To date, the Warriors have one home game and two away games and the Lady Warriors have four home games and one away game to be rescheduled.