BOE Eyes Snow Days

After a long winter with many school days canceled due to cold and snow, the Marshall County Board of Education discussed Tuesday how it will plan for snow days for the next school year.

About 80 concerned parents, teachers and residents gathered at a state-required public meeting at John Marshall High School’s auditorium to voice their questions and concerns about the county’s 2014-15 school calendar.

In a “working” calendar presented at the meeting, county schools will begin Aug. 18 and end on May 29, 2015. Cameron’s modified schedule will also be eliminated and all students in the county will once again be under a unified calendar.

Superintendent Michael Hince said the county will have an additional five weeks next year to fit in 180 instructional days, meaning all school cancellations could be made up until June 30.

Some attendees expressed concern about fitting in enough instruction before students take standardized tests in the spring. JMHS teacher Jonna Kuskey asked if there is a way for the county to reduce the number of snow days, such as letting students who can travel safely still come to school, so teachers can fit in as many instructional days as possible before May.

“I teach seniors and have one group who has to take the state-mandated college and career ready test in April,” Kuskey said. “We have WESTEST in April and an AP class where the students have to take that test in the first week of May. My concern when we move the days into June, first of all, we don’t get as much instructional time as needed before tests. From my standpoint, the more days I can get prior to May are much more valuable than the ones in June.”

Moundsville Middle School teacher Sue Lewicki also asked if individual schools with extra accrued minutes of instructional time will have to make up the same amount time lost to snow days as the rest of the county, noting Moundsville Middle has acquired a large amount of accrued instruction time this year.

“It has to be according to the least (amount of time) banked,” Hince said. “When you are talking about the whole county with two-hour delays, it’s according to the school with the least amount and it has to be a county-wide thing.”

The crowd applauded when Hince said the county was not considering implementing a year-round school schedule.

“Based on my responses, I’d say we are really far away (from a year-round schedule),” Hince said. “This is because we are trying to take input from everybody. If the majority of our staff says they are interested in that … you try to be responsive to what people say.”

According to Hince, the calendar was created with input from teacher committees at each school and from an online survey, to which over 1,000 people responded. The results of the survey show most people would choose to have school start on Aug. 25 and preferred several days off for Thanksgiving and spring break instead of a full week. Results also showed most people prefer to use spring break days to make up for snow cancellations.