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Most area counties out of snow days

January 12, 2010

With winter just beginning, many school systems are already out of snow days. West Virginia law requires students to have 180 days of classroom time.

Randolph County schools have missed seven days which includes all of their make-up days. Superintendent Dr. James Phares said any other missed days will not be made up. Phares said teachers will have to adapt to meet all the required content standards.

"It depends on how each school adapts," Phares said. "They (teachers) will have to cut the non-essential items. West Virginia teachers are used to this process and adapt quickly."

According to Phares, April 2 and April 5 cannot be used for make-up days because they are guaranteed out-of-calendar days. He said any additional days that are missed will not be made up.

Phares said there is no problem with the 180-day requirement except the restrictions when school can start and finish. He said school cannot start before Aug. 26 and cannot extend beyond June 8.

"There never have been any sanctions handed down for not having 180 days," Phares said. "In the past, they (the Legislature) have discussed monetary cuts."

Barbour County Schools Superintendent Dr. DeEdra Lundeen said students have missed seven instructional days this year; however she said teachers did report on one occasion. Barbour County students will make up four days at the end of the school year, but the other three make-up days have yet to be decided.

"It's the superintendent's discretion whether or not to take ISE days and that decision has not been made. I'll make it closer to the time," Lundeen said. "The main reason for me waiting to make that decision is I have to weigh whether or not the instructional time is as or more important than making sure that our teachers get the staff development and the faculty senate and all of those things, which are just as important."

Lundeen said it is "doubtful" the county will make the 180 days mandated by the state board.

"If we have any more days out at all, it will be extremely doubtful," Lundeen said. "My understanding is, my job is to run a thorough and efficient system within the law and the law states that we should have 180 days, but they have capped the limitation of their calendar. In other words, I can't go past the deadline and we'll do the best we can with it."

The higher elevation of Tucker County makes snow days inevitable and Superintendent Richard Hicks said only two more days are available to be used as make-up days.

"If we miss more than eight days, we can't make them up," he said Monday, which was the first day students were in school for more than two weeks.

West Virginia State Code says that county boards cannot designate make up days until after March 1. Therefore, Hicks said while the days are available, they have not been voted upon by the board members. He knows the challenges of running a school system in a traditionally snowy county and places the available days behind the March 1 deadline for that reason.

The entire state has been missing school due to the winter weather and, according to Hicks, the current rules allow no leniency in scheduling the school calendars.

"Almost everybody's out of days," he stated.

Lewis County has had seven days of school cancelled by wintery weather. The school board will tack on two days to the end of the school calendar, and more could be added at a later board meeting, said Superintendent Joe Mace.

While praising the state road workers for the job they have in clearing the roads, he knows there is a limit to the materials that can be used to treat the road surfaces.

"It's tough to have school if the roads are not treated and plowed," he said, noting that a large portion of the student population live on what is considered secondary roads. "I don't want to take chances with kids on a bus."

Mace said he would not be against extending the school calendar beyond the June 6, 2010, mark, saying most of the school personnel is already being paid to that date. He said he heard an argument against extending the school year was for the havoc it could create on athletic schedules and testing.

"Preston misses more school than any other county in the state, and they don't have the lowest test scores in the state," he said. "Just because school is cancelled, it doesn't mean kids can't take home their books and still learn."

Students in Upshur County have missed seven days and have had a two-hour delay because of inclement weather.



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