The final hearing to receive public input on next year's school calendar was held Thursday.
Tyler County Board of Education members and Superintendent Robin Daquilante met with teachers, parents, and other interested people to discuss changes coming to the school calendar.
Daquilante opened the second of two required public hearings on the school calendar, by addressing those in attendance at Tyler Consolidated High School. She opened the meeting by saying there has been a substantial change made by the passing of Senate Bill 359 which provides county boards more flexibility in developing a school calendar. She said the bill was originally set to become effective with the 2013-2014 school year, but House Bill 3157 delayed implementation of the changes to 2014-2015. The changes will require all county boards to provide a plan which will insure 180 separate days of actual instruction time.
Thursday's meeting was the final public hearing by the local board on the matter, but the School Calendar Committee will continue to meet to develop a calendar that will best suit the needs of Tyler County. The school calendar committee is made up of the four principals in the county, the superintendent, the director of curriculum and instruction, four teachers (representing each school), four parents (representing each school's local school improvement council), one student (Junior class president), two representatives from the professional employees association, and two employees from the service personnel employees association.
Daquilante said one of the changes required is that the school calendar must provide for 180 days of instruction. "So we must build in enough days in case we have another year of unusual weather," she said.
The calendar must also require the recovery of all instructional time lost due to late arrivals or early dismissals. She said they would be looking at ways to make up lost time by better use of time during the school day and turning minutes into hours or days for recovery of time lost. She said this has been a very unusual year with the weather and it has been very hard to get in a full week of school.
Daquilante explained the minimum employment term of 200 days has been extended from 43 weeks to 48 weeks. Daquilante said the new changes require they adopt a policy to add additional minutes of instruction to each day to recover for lost time. Another change would be to schedule four of the six out of school environment days (OS days) after the 130th day of instruction. She said the new school calendar must also provide a two-hour block of time for a faculty senate meeting on the day scheduled for the opening of school, prior to the instructional term, and a two-hour block of time, four additional times, one every 45 days.
The county boards now have discretion as to what type of day is used to make up a cancelled instructional day. They can now use non-instructional days or use an out-of-calendar day instead of remaining non-instructional days and continue to use the non-instructional days as scheduled. Pursuant to W.Va. Code 18-1-2, the school year begins on the first day of July and ends on June 30; Daquilante said she wants to make it clear, it does not mean school will start July 1 and end June 30. That is speaking only of the fiscal year. "We have not even discussed year-round school, we are still meeting and I will tell you it is not something we are looking at," she said.
"One of the things we will be looking at when developing a school calendar is making it similar to what Pleasants County has in order to maximize instructional time for our students who attend MOVTI. (Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute)," stated Daquilante.
The technical school has students from Wetzel, Tyler, Pleasants, and Ritchie and they all need 8,100 minutes per year per course. So it is important to stay close to the calendars of those schools.
"As we look at developing the calendar, we will also consider the availability of personnel/substitutes and the school schedules for sporting events," she said. "We also have to look at the dates when students are required to report for conditioning for fall sports and extra curricular activities."
Daquilante said the current school year will end May 30, for students, and June 3, will be the last day for teachers. She believes the start of the next school year will be very similar to what it has been in the past. We are looking at the week following the fair and hoping with a good winter we can end the first week of June. "But we have to build that time into the calendar which would allow us to go through June if we have another unusual winter," Daquilante said. "We want to get school started so we don't have to go until the end of June. "If we waited until after Labor Day to start, school would be surely be going until June 30. If you were to come to the high school on Aug. 1, you would see we easily have 300 kids already at the school. With the fall sports starting, the students are here training. So we feel starting early in August gives us the best change of getting out by the first or second week in June.
"The kids in our school are very involved with the fair and we also have teachers who are active with the fair as well. So we are going to try and start right after the fair," she said.
Daquilante then opened the meeting up to questions. Although no one came up to speak, there were several questions from the audience. One questioned the reason for having more teachers and administrators on the calendar committee. Daquilante said they tried to put people on from all areas of concern. She said they even put a student as a member. It is basically because the teachers and administrators have more experience in dealing with the schedules. She also said if anyone has any ideas, then pass them on to the board or call and we will consider them.
One person asked what would happen if their child would have to miss school for a family vacation; she said her family typically takes their vacation in June because it's the only time her husband can schedule time off. She was assured by the board they would work around vacations. Daquilante said there are forms to fill out where she could use their vacation time as learning time.
Another was concerned with the safety of the children at Boreman school, if school were to start prior to the fair and also during the Hillbilly 100 race at the fairgrounds. She was told the board, administrators, and teachers would be on high alert and the children at Boreman would be kept inside if that were to happen. "Safety of the children is our number one priority," said Daquilante.
Board member Jimmy Wyatt said he would recommend people contact their representatives and make concerns heard there as well. "These things are law and they have been handed down to us, so we have to deal with them," said Wyatt. "Contact them and tell them how you feel, they are in session now. If you can e-mail or phone, them do so. Pay a visit to the Capitol, and make your voice heard."
Daquilante said there are bills being prepared to consolidate the counties into districts and to eliminate the county elected boards. She said one bill would allow the governor to appoint the board members, just as he does the state board. "So yes, you do need to contact your representatives. We are doing all we can, but we do need your help." Wyatt said if they get some of these things passed, residents will lose your local voice and everything will be handled from the district office, which may be in Wood or Wirt counties.
Daquilante then thanked everyone for coming and reassured them, a school calendar that would best suit the needs of Tyler County is what this committee would work on. She said the next regularly scheduled meeting of the board is March 4, 7:30 p.m., at the Tyler County Board Office.