The weather may be a godsend for winter sports enthusiasts, but it has been a calamity for the school calendar in every county in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Since mid-January, frigid temperatures and snow have kept students out of class more days than they have attended. Those rare days when school has been in session, it is likely to have been with a two-hour delay.
The canceled days were unavoidable. No one wants children on buses that have to travel on treacherous, snow- or ice-covered roads. Kids should not be forced to stand outside in single-digit temperatures waiting for the bus.
But these cancellations come with a cost. Classroom work is missed and much cannot be made up. Teachers are forced to decide what lessons are more important, and spend less time than they otherwise would on the rest. This immeasurably hurts children at the present time and in the future.
Students in West Virginia are required to attend school for 180 days every school year. Two-hour delays count as a full instruction day. While schools have flexibility in when they can start a new school year, the calendar cannot exceed 43 weeks. With Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays, spring break and state-mandated faculty senate days, it can be difficult to get the required number of instructional days during a severe winter such as this year’s.
Because of new laws taking effect for the 2014-15 school year, schools will have more flexibility in scheduling their school calendars to meet this situation. Because schools will have 48 weeks to get the 180-day requirement, they can start earlier in August and end closer to the end of June. Also, two-hour delays will not count as a full instruction day and that time will have to be made up.
While the board of education will be required to hold at least two public hearings on the new school calendar, some parents may not like the final result. As Judy Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for Wood County Schools, noted, because of the new requirements, students may not have a full week at Thanksgiving and a spring break is not guaranteed. And some families may be forced to delay a June vacation until later.
But what will be guaranteed is students will have the full 180 days of instruction they require if they are to be successful in their future.