Upshur BOE looks at school calendar

The Upshur County Board of Education is still considering if switching to a balanced calendar is a better plan than keeping the existing calendar format.

A balanced calendar is often referred to as year-round schooling. Instead of students attending school all year, the balanced calendar takes the existing 180 instructional days and rearranges them in a way that allows longer holiday breaks from school, but a shorter summer break at the end of the year.

These balanced calendars usually involve an earlier starting date and a later ending date to the school year. Students would attend school for nine weeks at a time, with three weeks off in between.

“This makes sense because there’s not as much remedial teaching,” board member Greenbrier Almond said. “When there’s a long break, there’s so much catch-up teaching.”

Curriculum specialist John Haymond added that students who need remediation could have some isolated instruction at the end of each quarter as needed.

“If they were behind toward the end of that quarter, there’s a chance to catch them up,” Haymond said. “Then they start the next quarter on target.”

At a previous meeting, board members asked that the Calendar Committee to draft a sample of a balanced calendar, along with the standard calendar currently utilized in Upshur County schools. The Calendar Committee continues to finalize the calendars, but provided a proposed balanced calendar for the next two school years. The preliminary dates proposed in the calendar for the 2013-2014 school year have students attending school from Aug. 1 to June 4 with longer breaks between semesters. The 2014-2015 preliminary balanced calendar proposes that students attend school from July 31 to June 8 with longer breaks in between semesters. No calendars were adopted at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

“They’ve (West Virginia Board of Education) asked us to consider it (balanced calendar) for the last three years,” Haymond said. “This year they said to strongly consider it, if not for this year, but in the future years.”

With the traditional calendar, students usually would not begin school before Aug. 22 and would complete school by June 5. Another option allows the first semester to be completed before winter break.

The balanced calendar would reduce summer break from 10 or 11 weeks to six or seven weeks. Board member Tammy Samples expressed concern for students who work summers to pay for gas or car insurance. Briea St. Clair, a student representative to the board, said she believed that the greatest concern among high school students is their ability to have summer jobs. St. Clair said she believes there are ways for students to work around sports and 4-H programs.

“I like the idea of a balanced calendar. I think the only reason people don’t like it is because they’re not used to it,” St. Clair said. I think that’s good because it helps people look forward to a rejuvenation period.”

Board President Tammy Samples said she knows two families who have children that attend schools currently practicing a balanced calendar. She said the kids like the calendar because it gives them time off to be rejuvenated. She said it cuts their instructional periods into smaller pieces, and their parents have told her that they believe the children excel more.

“If counties go toward the balanced calendar, we would have to be in conjunction with Barbour County and Lewis County to make ours work with Fred Eberle (Center),” Haymond said, adding that Upshur County has often completed its school calendar early and then shared it calendar with Barbour and Lewis counties. “So we’ve kind of had the edge. They look at our samples first. So we’ve been ahead of the game.”

Haymond said the Calendar Committee is planning a public forum to discuss the idea of a balanced calendar with parents, teachers, students and other concerned individuals. The forum has not yet been scheduled, but will be designed to answer questions and share concerns or ideas.